Mururoa inaction dismays
The wife of a navy veteran finds it disturbing the Government has not reacted to revelations service personnel were exposed to higher doses of radiation than initially thought during French nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the tests, but Wanganui woman Veronica Cox, whose husband, Tony, was at the testing grounds in 1973, said many veterans continued to be ignored by the Government.
Mrs Cox's husband and brother were crewmen aboard the HMNZS Otago, which the Labour Government sent to protest at the French tests.
Her brother died of oesophageal cancer in 2002 while her husband was diagnosed with cutaneous non-Hodgkins lymphoma 17 years ago. Mr Cox's cancer shows up as lesions on his body but he has been told that once they move inside his body the diagnosis will probably be terminal.
The French military has released documents showing Mururoa inaction by Govt dismays
radiation levels from the tests were much greater than originally admitted. The reports showed that levels were very high even in Tahiti, 1250km away.
But the New Zealand frigates, Otago and HMNZS Canterbury, were just 12-15km off Mururoa.
Mrs Cox said that while her husband was receiving a war disability pension, he only got that with proof from a medical specialist that the only way he could have contracted his type of cancer was by exposure to high doses of ionised radiation. "But there are many crew who have died without gaining a pension, and many, many more who have been told they're not eligible ... It disturbs me that we've heard nothing from our government since the release of those documents by the French military."
The frigates were sent to Mururoa by then-Prime Minister Norman Kirk with MP Fraser Coleman aboard representing the Government.
"At a reunion we attended about 10 years ago, a then very ill Mr Coleman had his wife speak on his behalf and said the sailors were not there as protesters, that he was the protester," Mrs Cox said.
The frigates stayed in the area for at least a week after the tests, using desalinated sea water for washing, laundry and cooking, but that did not remove radioactive particles.
Mrs Cox believes seeking compensation from the French Government would be pointless. "The French didn't invite our ships to Mururoa atoll and certainly didn't want them there. It was the NZ Government that sent those men and it's their responsibility to compensate and look after those men, their wives and partners and their children," she said.
The Government had a duty of care to the survivors and their families, she said.