Mururoa radiation exposure not harmful – report

Mururoa radiation exposure not harmful – report

Crew members aboard two New Zealand navy frigates sent to Mururoa to protest French nuclear testing weren't exposed to harmful levels of radiation, a new report has found.

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

Concerns have long been raised about the levels of radiation the sailors were exposed to on their month-long deployments and Veterans Affairs Minister Craig Foss requested an independent report from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

But that report, released today, found the crews received less radiation exposure while in the vicinity of Mururoa than their families did 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 said.

"The HMNZS Otago crew was exposed to none; with external radiation levels, atmospheric radioactivity levels, and contamination levels being essentially zero.

"The only difference for HMNZS Canterbury was that traces of atmospheric radioactivity were detected a day after the test, with this potentially delivering a small dose of less than 0.05 milliSievert."

The report has also discounted drinking water contamination, resulting from the distillation of seawater, as a way sailors were potentially exposed to radiation.