Radioactive leakage from Moruroa

Wednesday, July 10, 1991

Radioactive leakage from Moruroa

The presence of radioactive cesium-134 has been confirmed by analysis of plankton sampled last year in international waters close to France's nuclear test site at Moruroa in the South Pacific, according to a report released by Greenpeace International.

Cesium-134 is an artificial radionuclide formed during nuclear fission.

A five-person Greenpeace scientific team was arrested and deported by the French military in December after trying to take samples closer to Moruroa to determine the source and extent of the contamination.

The report concludes that artificial radioactivity near the test site raises serious environmental questions, further diminishing confidence in the ability of Pacific coral atolls to contain the radioactivity from underground nuclear explosions. It calls for critical scientific sampling to evaluate the environmental impact and implications of the nuclear testing program.

Fifteen leading scientists have published an open letter to French Prime Minister Edith Cresson, supporting Greenpeace's demand for an international independent scientific investigation.

"The environmental consequences of damage to the coral atolls and marine environment from France's nuclear tests are far too serious to be hidden behind military secrecy", said Jean McSorley, Greenpeace Australia nuclear issues coordinator. "The tests and the concealment must stop."

Greenpeace called on France to honour its obligations under the South Pacific Regional Environmental Convention, which it ratified in 1990, to prevent radioactive pollution from the nuclear test site.

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