France conducted almost 200 nuclear tests in French Polynesia between 1966 and 1996 and a close look at just three of them reveals that the impact on the local population was far more devastating than the country has admitted, according to a new study. Researchers say fallout from the atmospheric Aldebaran, Encelade and Centaure tests in 1966, 1971 and 1974 affected around 110,000 people, almost the entire population of the region at the time, the BBC reports. They say the dose of radiation received was up to 10 times France's official estimates, meaning tens of thousands more people could be eligible for compensation. France established a system in 2010 to pay compensation to civilians who contracted cancer after the tests, but only 63 Polynesians have received payouts so far.
Princeton University researchers worked with the NGOs Disclose and Interprt on the Moruroa Files reports, which draws on recently declassified government reports and interviews with inhabitants of the Pacific islands affected, including Tahiti, the Guardian reports. "The state has tried hard to bury the toxic heritage of these tests," said Geoffrey Livolsi, editor-in-chief of Disclose’s non-profit investigative newsroom. “This is the first truly independent scientific attempt to measure the scale of the damage and to acknowledge the thousands of victims of France’s nuclear experiment in the Pacific." The researchers note that the compensation board has rejected more than 80% of claims without giving a reason, including some from families which have several members with cancer. (Read more nuclear test stories.)