Mururoa radiation report findings 'ridiculous'

  • 23/10/2015
HMNZS Otago (File)
HMNZS Otago (File)

By Dave Williams

A group of veterans from naval frigates that monitored French nuclear testing in the Pacific say it is "ridiculous" to say they were not exposed to more radiation than people at home.

In 1973, the then-Labour government sent the HMNZS Otago and HMNZS Canterbury to the French Polynesian atoll of Mururoa in an expression of New Zealand's concern about the testing there of nuclear weapons.

The Mururoa Veterans Group, which has campaigned for an investigation for two years, says more than 650 sailors and their families, including those from the Australian tanker HMAS Supply, were aboard the ships and many have battled early deaths and illness since.

An Environmental Science and Research report, released yesterday, found the crews received less radiation exposure than their families at home.

"The on-board monitoring results indicate that crews of neither ship were exposed to significant radiation attributable to the weapon tests," the report says.

The report also discounts radiation exposure from drinking distilled seawater.

Mururoa Veterans Group president Wayne O'Donnell said he is unhappy that the report concludes the sailors were not exposed to any more radiation than those at home.

"I find that absolutely ridiculous," Mr O'Donnell told NZ Newswire.

The ESR report used data that contradicts easily available data from French and Tahitian authorities, he said.

Mr O'Donnell said measuring equipment on the Otago failed and was not installed on Canterbury, so there are no records of salt water, fresh water or food testing.

The veterans' health needs are being looked after by Veterans Affairs, but the group is worried for their descendants, who could be hurt by this report.

"My main concern is, when I go toes up, who's going to look after my kids, my grandkids, great-grandkids in the future? That's the worrying part," Mr O'Donnell said.

The group is collecting health data from about 300 sailors and "quite a number of families we are still talking to" to compare with those who did not go to Mururoa.

They want to present it to the Government early next year.

It shows high rates of mortality with radiation-related illnesses among the sailors, Mr O'Donnell said.

There is also a high rate of birth defects in children and grandchildren, as well as a very high rate of female infertility and a high rate of stillbirths and miscarriages.