3 Oct 2013

Health fears for workers to be sent to French Polynesia nuke test site

6:06 pm on 3 October 2013

The French Polynesia's nuclear test veterans organisation says it fears for the well-being of labourers being hired by the French military to help repair the monitoring system at the disused nuclear weapons test site on Moruroa.

The head of Moruroa e tatou, Roland Oldham, says the site is contaminated, posing risks to those sent to repair broken cables that stopped measuring the atoll's movements.

ROLAND OLDHAM: If those cables are broken down it's probably because of the sea-water. And also, on the other hand, we may also think it's because of the strong movement underground that those cables are broken down. So for the past five years we're not getting the right information because all these things are not working. We are worried about the situation because they made a communication last week by saying this is going to bring a lot of work for the Polynesian people and that it's going to be good for the economy. And all that reminds us of the period of experimentation. It's still the same way of doing things, where they put money forward and they don't talk about the risk, knowing exactly that Mururoa is already a place that is very contaminated, and taking workers there, we don't agree with this sort of situation, because we say we already have the victims of the french nuclear tests that have been happening for the past 30 years. Now it's almost like we are redoing what happened in 1966. Everybody goes and works there with the good salary.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: How do you know what is being paid? Are the jobs advertised?

RO: They advertised last week about this opportunity for the economy of the country and for work. We think it's not good at all because work in that condition where there's no security, work in a place like Mururoa where we know everything is contaminated, to me is not the sort of job that I would advise my children to go there and work.

WZ: If there are risks identified or if you feel that it is dangerous to work there, is there a chance that workers will simply refuse?

RO: It is simple, very simple. People go to work there because of money and because our situation jobwise is no jobs right now. We know that even in the period of the CEP (Centre d'Experimentation du Pacifique), a lot of people went to work there because the salary was very high. And it is just a remake, just a remake of the CEP. That's why we're saying 'Be careful. Watch it. There is danger and we don't agree that our children go and work there like they did in the time of nuclear tests.

WZ: At the same time, your organisation must be keen that this monitoring system, this TELSITE system, is being repaired.

RO: Of course. It has to be repaired, has to repaired by specialists in this kind of job, has to be repaired on some condition - the condition is our security and protection, full protection for the workers and experienced special workers for this kind of job, not only taking labourer workers from here to go and work there.