Friday 25 October 2013

Mururoa Atoll

This does not appear in the main Radio NZ site.

"........many fear a Fukushima-like disaster is possible. Transparency, of course, and another thing, a plan what to do in case of... if the reef barrier of Moruroa and Fangataufa is collapsing, what is the plan?


Definitely no more Pacific fish dinners!

Tahiti Greens want more information about Moruroa risks
The Greens in French Polynesia are urging Paris to give information about the risks of Moruroa atoll collapsing

24 October, 2013

The former nuclear weapons test site is a no-go zone, which France has kept despite promising to return it to French Polynesia after the end of the testing regime in 1996.

France is refusing access to independent monitors while saying the chance of a collapse is practically nil.

A spokesperson for the Greens in Tahiti, Olivier Champion, says France has a record of lying about the tests and their effects, and many fear a Fukushima-like disaster is possible.

Transparency, of course, and another thing, a plan what to do in case of... if the reef barrier of Moruroa and Fangataufa is collapsing, what is the plan? What can we do? How can we react?”

Olivier Champion says the chain of command via France is so long that a possible tsunami would hit nearby atolls before a local warning is issued.

He says nuclear contamination could imperil the livelihood of vast areas of the Pacific.

A bit of history - 

French Nuclear Test "Encelade"

Video of the French nuclear test "Encelade", conducted on June 12, 1971 at Dindon Sector, Mururoa Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. The bomb was suspended beneath a balloon at 1,440 feet when detonated.

Encelade was a proof test of the MR-41 boosted fission warhead. The MR-41 entered service in 1971 and had a nominal yield of 500 kilotons.

The mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 54,400 feet 10 minutes after the explosion. Two aircraft participated in cloud sampling missions, while 10 rockets were launched into the mushroom cloud for gaseous and particulate sampling. Fallout fell over the atoll of Tureia on the night of 12 and 13 June 1971 following the test.

Visually this test resembled the much larger "Licorne" test of the previous year.

French nuclear weapons testing

Mururoa, and its sister atoll Fangataufa, were the site of extensive nuclear testing by France between 1966 and 1996, as well as the site of numerous protests by various vessels, including the Rainbow Warrior.[2] The atoll was officially established as a nuclear test site by France on September 21, 1962, when the Direction des Centres d'Experimentation Nucleaires (DIRCEN) was established to administer the nuclear testing.[3] This followed with the construction of various infrastructures on the atoll commencing in May 1963. The atoll of Hao, 245 nautical miles (450 km; 280 mi) to the north-west of Mururoa, was chosen as a support base for the nuclear tests and other operations.

Despite objections from some 30 members of the Polynesian Territorial Assembly, the first nuclear test was conducted on July 2, 1966, code named Aldebaran, when a plutonium fission bomb was exploded in the lagoon.[4][5] Greenpeace stated that it sucked all the water from the lagoon, "raining dead fish and mollusks down on the atoll", and it spread contamination across the Pacific as far as Peru and New Zealand.[4][5] President Charles de Gaulle himself was present at Moruroa on 10 September 1966 when a test was conducted, using a device suspended from a balloon.[2] Most of these tests were conducted on the western end of the atoll, designated as Dindon.[6] Smaller blasts were detonated on the northern end of the atoll, designated as Denise.[6] Three nuclear devices were detonated on barges, three were air dropped from bombers, and the rest were suspended from helium filled balloons. A total of 41 atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at Mururoa between 1966 and 1974.[4][7]

France abandoned nuclear testing in the atmosphere in 1974 and moved testing underground in the midst of intense world pressure which was sparked by the New Zealand Government of the time, which sent two frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and Otago, to the atoll in protest for a nuclear free Pacific. Shafts were drilled deep into the volcanic rocks underlying the atolls where nuclear devices were detonated. This practice created much controversy as cracking of the atolls was discovered, resulting in fears that the radioactive material trapped under the atolls would eventually escape and contaminate the surrounding ocean and neighboring atolls. A major accident occurred on 25 July 1979 when a test was conducted at half the usual depth because the nuclear device got stuck halfway down the 800 metre shaft.[2] It was detonated and caused a large submarine landslide on the southwest rim of the atoll, causing a significant chunk of the outer slope of the atoll to break loose and causing a tsunami affecting Mururoa and injuring workers.[2] The blast caused a 2 kilometre long and 40 cm wide crack to appear on the atoll.[2]

French president Jacques Chirac’s decision to run a nuclear test series at Mururoa on on 5 September and 2 October 1995, just one year before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was to be signed, caused worldwide protest, including an embargo of French wine.[2] Riots took place across Polynesia, and the South Pacific Forum threatened to suspend France.[2] These tests were meant to provide the nation with enough data to improve further nuclear technology without needing additional series of tests. The test site at Mururoa was dismantled following France’s last nuclear test to date, detonated on 27 January 1996, but the atoll is still guarded by the French Forces. In total, 181 explosions took place at Moruroa and Fangataufa, 41 of which were atmospheric.[4] However, the total number has been variously reported, nuclear scientists working at the site claim 175 explosions in total took place in Pacific.[7]

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