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Asia-Pacific

French court dismisses Chernobyl nuclear fallout case after 10 years

media Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks at a Chernobyl commemoration … Reuters/Gleb Garanich

A Paris appeal court has dismissed a case by French citizens who believed their health had been damaged by the radioactive cloud that crossed Europe after Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The ruling comes amid growing opposition to nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima accident.

After 10 years of legal wrangling, the court ruled that there was no scientific proof that the Chernobyl accident had any effect in France.

Several hundred people, mainly in eastern France and Corsica, had taken out a class action suit against the government after suffering from troubles with their thyroid glands, a classic symptom of radioactive contamination.

The court’s decision “will leave a bitter taste”, their lawyer, Benard Fau, declared Wednesday, promising to take the case to the final appeals court.

Anti-nuclear campaigners promised to demonstrate against the ruling, as well as France’s current nuclear programme, on 15 October.

The government of the time, headed by Jacques Chirac who currently faces other legal worries, was widely criticised for its handling of the crisis. While Germany warned consumers not to eat fresh produce and distributed iodine pills, the government took no special measures as the cloud passed over France.

The court’s decision also clears top nuclear scientist Pierre Pellerin of charges that he covered up the effects of the cloud and even concealed information about its effects.

Wednesday’s decision comes amid resurgent opposition to nuclear power worldwide in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, judged the world's worst such accident since Chernobyl.

Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias Concord prize was awarded to Japanese workers, firefighters and members of the military who braved high radiation to tackle the disaster.

 

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