France's National Assembly has passed a bill to compensate nuclear test veterans for the consequences of more than 200 weapons tests carried out between 1960 - 1996 in French Polynesia and Algeria.
The bill, drawn up by defence minister Herve Morin, received the support of 300 MPs from the ruling coalition.
Opposition parties either abstained or voted against. The bill will now go to the Senate.
Radio New Zealand International reports it marks the first time that France has abandoned claims that its tests were clean and had no negative effect on veterans' health.
Some $US4 million has been set aside for possible compensation payments.
About 150,000 French and local military personnel were exposed to the testing regime.