Testimony of a Veteran of French Nuclear Testing
Jean-Paul's writing conveys an everlasting sadness and anger about the assignment he was given in the nuclear testing program, but his words also convey a profound love for his brothers in nuclear arms, all mixed with an ambivalent nostalgia for the defining adventure of his youth in a poisoned paradise. He was indulged with great freedom and leisure, but it was all a setup for a devastating disillusionment. How could he not be haunted for the rest of his life by such a surreal experience, especially when the health effects on his comrades, himself and his children slowly revealed themselves over the ensuing decades?
- On the Fangataufa atoll, what was the point of all those signs that said "Danger: Risk of Contamination"?
- What was all the barbed wire for? What protection was it supposed to offer?
- Why was all the coral debris vitrified?
- Why did the nuclear testing regime provide us with so many diversions and luxuries? (The great food, the leisure activities—it was practically a Club Med.)
- Why didn't we have dosimeters?
- Why didn't we have Geiger counters?
- Why didn't we have potassium iodide pills at the infirmary during the nuclear tests?
- At the hospitals on the site, why were there no instructions specific to radiological accidents to prepare us in case of trouble during the tests?
- Why were we not trained and equipped in how to safely take samples of radioactive water? After the Achilles test, wearing only shorts and tongs, I had to walk out in a state of dread on a cracked rock slab to take a sample.
- Why are there so many blocks of pulverized concrete and piles of old bunkers?
- Why has vegetation not re-grown in certain areas?
- Why was I hospitalized by a civilian doctor in a military hospital in Lorient?
- Why was I sterile for so many years?
- Why, in certain military files, were afflictions suffered in Moruroa and Fangataufa (the bomb test sites) registered as having originated in Papeete, 1,200 kilometers away?
- Why were these tests "without danger" not conducted in France, or since they actually were so dangerous, not in the near-Antarctic islands of Kerguelen, as was proposed at one time?
- Why are the archives on the Polynesian tests not declassified? Is the truth too unsettling?
- Why are the people like me, who were in the line of fire, dying prematurely?
For more images, see this fifteen minute video slideshow of the nuclear testing era in Moruroa and Fangatauga: Les Essais Nucléaires Francais
For more background on French nuclear tests in the Pacific, read:
"Leaked report raised fears of radioactive tsunami if Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia collapses," The Watchers, August 19, 2012, http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/2012/08/19/leaked-report-raised-fears-of-radioactive-tsunami-if-mururoa-atoll-in-french-polynesia-collapses/
- Chris Busby, "Bomb test veterans' grandchildren suffer health impacts," The Ecologist, October 16, 2014, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2595620/bomb_test_veterans_grandchildren_suffer_health_impacts.html
- Paul Dicken (director), Children of the Bomb: A Northern Eye Investigation, Tyne Tees Television (United Kingdom), 1990, a documentary about the Christmas Island Nuclear Test Veterans and the genetic damage inflicted on their descendants, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRJLkSjcIAU&feature=share
- Dr. Boris Gusev, Semipalatinsk Institute of Radiation Medicine, Kazakhstan, speaking in After the Apocalypse, (46:18~), Tigerlily Films, May 2011: "Over the last 15 years we have thoroughly analyzed all the material in the archives. We have made our conclusions and published our research. And at the same time we have continued our planned research on the population. Now a huge group has appeared, of 250,000 to 270,000 people. These are the children of parents who have been irradiated. We thought that everything would go smoothly, that chromosomal damage and genetic effects would be confined to only the generation of people who were irradiated, and they could not be inherited by future generations. But it turned out this was wrong."