Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has noted the announcement in Vienna
on 1 March of the agreement between France and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) to conduct a study of the radiological situation at the French nuclear
testing sites at Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls.
Australia has consistently called on France to acknowledge the legitimacy
of concerns of the countries of the South Pacific about the potential adverse
environmental and health effects of French nuclear testing in a fragile
France's invitation to the IAEA to conduct the study is in keeping with
a demand put by South Pacific Environment Ministers after a meeting hosted
and initiated by Australia in August 1995.
The meeting called for France to provide access to all French scientific
data and testing sites to enable an independent and comprehensive assessment
of the effects of nuclear testing.
France's agreement to an independent, international scientific assessment
of its nuclear testing sites could also be seen as a first step towards
responding to the call by South Pacific nations for France to accept full
and exclusive responsibility for any adverse effects from French testing
on the South Pacific environment and people.
Last year the IAEA General Conference passed a resolution calling on all
States concerned to fulfil their responsibilities in ensuring that sites
where nuclear tests have been conducted are monitored scrupulously to avoid
adverse impacts on health, safety and the environment. While this study
is a sign that France intends to fulfil its responsibilities, the progress
of the IAEA study and French action will need to be monitored closely to
ensure a full and creditable outcome.
The study will be organised by the IAEA under the guidance and direction
of an International Advisory Committee of independent scientific experts,
including scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
The announcement of the study followed closely on President Chirac' s announcement
on 22 February that France will permanently close its nuclear testing sites
in the Pacific. This announcement, together with President Chirac's promise
to sign the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and the announcement
of the radiological study, are indications that France is making serious
efforts to rebuild its relations with South Pacific nations.
The net result could be an end to nuclear testing in a region which has
endured atmospheric and underground nuclear testing almost from the beginning
of the nuclear era.