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Mururoa Nuclear Radiation Report Scheduled for October

Mururoa Nuclear Radiation Report Scheduled for October

An independent report into likely exposure and risk from radiation during the New Zealand government’s 1973 two-frigate protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa is expected to be released to MNVG Inc in October. 42 years after the event.

The report was commissioned by Veterans Affairs New Zealand (VANZ) in August and is being carried out by Crown research agency Environmental Science and Research Ltd, .it is addressing three issues: • the external dose rate to veterans from nuclear testing; • the internal (perhaps also external) dose rate from seawater used in ships; • hereditary effect on offspring.

Described as “a scientific report written with consideration of a non-specialist/technical audience”, the report is the result of sustained efforts over the last two years by the Mururoa Nuclear Veterans Group Inc (MNVG Inc) MNVG Inc President, Wayne O’Donnell, says the group – formed in 2013 and registered as a legal society – has been monitoring the health of the veterans, their children and grandchildren, and is establishing a trust fund to enable the medical testing of the veterans’ children and grandchildren, and to help those in need.

He says the report stems from the MNVG Inc’s meetings with Veterans Affairs Minister Craig Foss and VANZ in May. Following that meeting, Foss directed VANZ to commission an independent examination of the issues.

O’Donnell says Foss and Head of Veterans Affairs New Zealand, Jackie Couchman – both relatively new to their positions – have proved far more receptive and open to looking at the issues than their predecessors.

He says the group hopes the results of this work “will establish the truth of the genetic transfer of illnesses related to the nuclear exposure encountered by the crews”.

“We wanted to get it recognised as an issue, and ideally, to get help from the Government in funding research and establishing a Health Trust Fund.”

New Zealand’s protest in 1973 attracted international attention and helped force the French to switch to underground testing.

Around 500 crew, observers (including a government minister, Fraser Colman) and news media sailed aboard HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Otago to witness two atmospheric nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll. HMAS Supply, with a crew of 200 plus, was also deployed into the radiated waters by the Royal Australian Navy to replenish the frigates with Fuel and Food during the deployment. To date these Australian Sailors have not been recognised or offered Health Assistance in relation to their deployment by the Australian Government.

A number of Mururoa veterans – and some of their children – have died at an early age.

MNVG Inc says there has also been a significant number of miscarriages, stillborn children, and children born with deformities or health problems.

The group has been searching for veterans and their descendants to contribute to the research. However, the search has been complicated by the lack of complete data on who was on board the frigates. While MNVG Inc have a full list for Canterbury, no such list can be found within NZDEF Records or archives for Otago.

Contact has been lost with some of the widows and children of those who have died, says O’Donnell. “We need to make contact with these people so that they can be informed of any findings, be part of the testing but most of all receive the duty of care they are entitled to. We also need to record any medical issues suffered by the generational children of the nuclear veterans. Not just now but in future generations.”

At the end of June 2015, 93 veterans who served at Mururoa were receiving a War Disablement Pension under the Veterans’ Support Act. A list of “conclusively presumed conditions” supports veterans of Pacific testing. A veteran diagnosed with a disability on the list is entitled to free medical treatment.

“This number of 93 is minimal, why ?, simply because many Veterans do not know what they are entitled to and there has been no proactive action taken to locate and inform them in the past. Some of our shipmates are simply living with their health issues and eventually dying, totally unaware of the Duty of Care they are entitled to”, Says O’Donnell.

Until now the New Zealand government has taken the position that the available evidence indicated Mururoa veterans were not exposed to harmful doses of ionising radiation in the frigates, neither of which came within 20 nautical miles – the minimum safe distance – of a detonation. However they did sail thru the contaminated cloud and fallout on more than one occasion and drew contaminated water into the ships.

O’Donnell, who was a navy marine engineer and diver, says it is not just a matter of direct exposure to radiation. He says seawater was collected and desalinated to provide drinking water, and food was stored in lockers on the upper deck in direct exposure to any and all fallout and salt water contamination..

“This water had been radiated for years and years. The testing of samples showed that it had high levels. We were ingesting it”.

He says the concern should be whether radiation was involved, not how much: “Any radiation is too much.”

Mururoa Nuclear veterans and families have been waiting 42 years and look forward to the report and further communications with both the Government and VANZ.

ENDS

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