€10 MILLION has been set aside this year in the start of a major drive to compensate people who have developed illnesses due to exposure to radiation from French nuclear testing.
The money is to be used in connection with a new law on compensation for nuclear testing, which is shortly to be debated by parliament.
Defence Minister Hervé Morin said: “We wanted to create a compensation mechanism that is just but rigorous. About 150,000 civil and military workers are theoretically concerned, not to mention the local people who were living in the Sahara or in Polynesia at the time of the tests.
“An independent commission made up of doctors and chaired by a judge will look at the applications case by case. If the request is accepted there will be full compensation.”
The commission will rely on UN guidance and, contrary to previous practice, applicants will not have to prove their illness was caused by testing, but the commission will have to show it was not if they refuse the claim.
The commission will work using a UN list of illnesses known to be caused by radiation and no minimum exposure level will be required. To assist them medical and scientific experts are studying archive information about the tests and an independent study into the health of 30,000 people who took part in testing is being done.
Mr Morin said in the past there had been reluctance to address the issue because the official view was the tests had been done in the best possible safety conditions and to encourage compensation claims would damage the credibility of France’s nuclear deterrent.
However he said it was time for France to come to terms with the issue so as to scotch exaggerated conspiracy theories and avoid drawn out legal cases by individuals.