Nuclear tests in the Pacific – 7


Photograph: David Robie


Part Seven of David Robie's backgrounder to French militarisation in the Pacific


US radiation fallout

This had been echoed almost two decades earlier than the French declassified documents when The Washington Post reported that US analysts had admitted that radiation fallout from their nuclear tests of the 1950s was “limited”.

In fact, federal documents, according to The Post in the February 1994 article, had revealed that “the post-explosion cloud of radioactive materials spread hundreds of [kilometres] beyond the limited area earlier described in the vast range Pacific islands”.

Thousands of Marshall Islanders and “some US troops” had probably been exposed to radiation, the documents suggested.

“One of the biggest crimes here is that the US government seemed to clearly know the extent of the fallout coming, but made no attempt to protect people from it,” said Washington-based lawyer Jonathan Weisgall, author of Operation Crossroads, a book about the Marshall Islands nuclear tests.

The Rainbow Warrior bombing with the death of photographer Fernando Pereira was a callous tragedy. But the greater tragedy remains the horrendous legacy of the Pacific nuclear testing on the people of Rongelap and the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia.

The last voyage of the first Rainbow Warrior – right up until the bombing in Auckland three decades ago – left a lasting legacy for New Zealand and the future of activism.



© Copyright David Robie 2015.