France to pay nuclear test compensation
Nearly 40 years after the first of its 210 nuclear tests, France is preparing to compensate people affected by the fallout. The move leaves the UK isolated in its policy of rejecting liability for illnesses suffered by test participants, reports Aidan Lewis.
Early in the morning of 13 February, 1960, several thousand French servicemen gathered in the Algerian Sahara to witness "Gerboise Bleue" or "Blue Desert Rat", an atmospheric nuclear explosion four times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
But the test programme it launched also exposed participants and local populations to potentially lethal radiation.
Both groups claim that they have been plagued by health problems, from aggressive cancers to minor cardio-vascular complaints.
Only now, with many of the veterans dead or dying, is the French government drawing up a bill that starts to satisfy their demands.
The High Court in London ruled on Friday that a group of more than 1,000 veterans has the right to sue the Ministry of Defence for compensation, but the case is likely to take years to reach any conclusion.
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