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Asia-Pacific

Hollande promises nuclear test compensation review in French Polynesia

media French President François Hollande visits the market in Papeete on Monday AFP

French President François Hollande has promised to review the compensation process for cancer caused by 30 years of nuclear tests in the Pacific and admitted they did damage to health and the environment on a visit to French Polynesia. Only 19 out of 1,000 applicants have been granted payouts since a law was passed in 2010.

"I recognise that the nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996 in French Polynesia have had an environmental impact, causing health consequences," Hollande said in Tahiti while on a tour of the Pacific.

France carried out the 193 nuclear tests on the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, and others in the Sahara, until former president Jacques Chirac ended the programme in the 1990s.

In response to demands from local NGOs and politicians, Hollande promised that the compensation process will be examined.

And a clause referring to "negligible risk" will be changed, he promised, "for some categories of victims when it is shown that indispensable monitoring measures were not carried out".

NGOs have called for it be scrapped outright.

To applause, Hollande paid tribute to the French Pacific territories' contribution to the development of France's nuclear deterrent, announced that the government would contribute to the development of Tahiti's cancer-treatment service and declared that a regional grant, known as the "nuclear debt", would be pegged at 90 million euros from 2017 onwards.

It is worth 84 million euros in 2016.

"Our people, as you know, finds it hard to understand that, having hosted the Pacific experimentation centre, we are still obliged today to fight for the consequences to be recognised," the territory's president, autonomist politician Edouard Fritch, said before Holladne spoke.

Hollande was to fly on to Latin America after visiting France's Pacific territories, with visits planned to Peru, Argentina and Uruguay.

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