Thirty-six people have claimed that they are victims of the long-term effects of French nuclear weapons testing in Tahiti.
The move has prompted the French government to send out experts to their former colony in the Pacific to assess if compensation should be paid out.
It’s the latest development in an ongoing saga that nuclear testing has cast over French Polynesia, which kicked into high gear late in November 2018 when Tahitian president Edouard Fritch admitted he was complicit in covering up just how harmful the tests really were.
It comes after an unsuccessful application to the International Criminal Court by French Polynesian groups last year, citing crimes against humanity.
While the United States and Britain conceded that their own nuclear tests in the Pacific immediately after World War II and into the 1950s caused radiation illness to both the local population and the servicemen involved in running the tests, France has long maintained that theirs, which continued up until 1996, did not.
Fritch’s extraordinary admission has meant that the pro-independence movement in Tahiti has gained serious traction, and the latest development will do little to ease any tension between Papeete and Paris.
France tested 193 nuclear weapons in the South Pacific over a 30-year period, with the atmospheric blasts irradiating most islands.
The experts sent over will assess claimants in Tahiti and neighbouring islands of Maupiti, Raiatea, Huahine and Fakarava.