A Glimmer of Hope for French Nuclear Veterans
The French weekly newspaper Le Canard enchaîné provides aggressive and biting coverage of the nuclear establishment in a way that mainstream media refrain from doing. Le Canard has been in print since 1915, except for a period during the German occupation when it was forced to close. The journal had a moment of international fame in September 2013 when it ran satirical cartoons about Tokyo being awarded the 2020 Olympics in spite of Japan’s troubles containing its nuclear catastrophe.
Unfortunately for readers who would like easy access to its reporting, Le Canard has stuck to its policy of being print only. There is a Le Canard enchaîné website, but it exists only to introduce the journal, sell subscriptions and occupy the domain name that imitators and detractors would like to possess.
Occasionally, I notice people in my social network share photos of pages from Le Canard, and today I came across the following report about the plight of French veterans of nuclear testing. I’m posting this translation of content from Le Canard, hoping that they won’t mind the publicity and the fact that this sample is made available to English readers as an act of solidarity with Les oubliés du nucléaire (the forgotten nuclear veterans).
A less than glowing report for French nuclear veterans
translated from French
It’s a small victory for nuclear veterans of atomic testing in Algeria and Polynesia, and for their families! Will their exposure to radiation finally receive [official] recognition? Maybe not, but according to a recent decree, it will now be the Minister of Health, not the Minister of Defense, who will preside over the commission in charge of compensation. Until now, it has been the military that was judge and jury when it came to recognition of exposure to radiation.
And there is quite a job ahead. The last report of the Committee for Compensation for Victims of Nuclear Tests is revealing: of the 911 cases reviewed since its creation in 2010, 16 have resulted in damages paid by the state. Less than 2% of applicants received a positive response. That’s a real victory of sorts [for one side of the dispute].
The reason for this outcome, according to Jean-Luc Sans, president of AVEN (Association des vétérans des essais nucléaires), is that the administration always uses the same formula to establish the causal link between presence at the site of nuclear tests and illnesses that developed thereafter. The calculations made with this formula are so complex that even specialists in nuclear medicine (consulted by the commission) can make no sense of them.
What’s more, this formula takes no account of certain radioactive elements such as cobalt 60, a very toxic radionuclide released in nuclear explosions. “When this formula is applied, the result is always that the risk was negligible,” claims Corinne Bouchoux, ecolo* senator and author of a scathing report on the compensation law.
As a result, administrative tribunals are now studying no fewer than 300 appeals against rejected claims. Because the administration systematically appeals any judgment that goes in favor of veterans, delays are accumulating. In 2015, the Conseil d’Etat is supposed to have settled the cases which were filed in 2010. The irradiated and contaminated victims have been waiting for thirty years, so it’s not like anyone is in a hurry, right?
translated from French:
“Bilan peu rayonnant pour les vétérans du nucléaire,” Le Canard enchaîné, October 29, 2014.
* The term ecolo refers to the Group écologiste du sénat, a coalition within the French senate that promotes progressive environmental policies.