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Humanitarian and Environmental Concerns of Nuclear Veterans and the Impact of Fallout from French Pacific Nuclear Tests

New Zealand

Their concerns are supported by independent medical research. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), of which Aotearoa New Zealand is a state party, obligates assistance to victims, including veterans, and remediation of contaminated environments. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.


A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harms of nuclear weapons use and testing to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, finding that:

  • 12,000 Aotearoa New Zealand soldiers risked exposure to radiation while participating in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), following the atomic bombings in Hiroshima.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand troops were deployed to UK test sites (11 troops in Australia; 551 in Kiribati).
  • 551 New Zealand Navy sailors deployed to protest 1973 French nuclear tests at Moruroa Atoll.
  • Many BCOF and test veterans have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, were exposed to fallout from French Pacific nuclear testing from 1966 to 1974. The population (4.6 million people) may be considered at risk of being victims of nuclear weapons testing.
  • Venting and leaching of radioactive materials from France’s underground test sites into the ocean poses environmental risks to the South Pacific region.

The report recommends that Aotearoa New Zealand should:

  1. Encourage states to sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors.
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments in the Pacific.
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors.
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests.


Learn about Nuclear Weapons

Learn About Nuclear Weapons is a web-based educational material from the Swedish Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons for those who want to learn more about nuclear weapons: