Sébastien Philippe and Tomas Statius, "Toxique: Enquête sur les essais nucléaires français en Polynésie" (Companyédition PUF/Disclose, 2021)


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What happens when you bring together an important collection of previously secret archival documents dealing with France's nuclear detonations in the Pacific from 1966 to 1996, a nuclear scientist, and an investigative journalist? Working together beginning in early 2020, Sébastien Philippe and Tomas Statius, the authors of Toxique: Enquête sur les essais nucléaires français en Polynésie (Presses universitaires de France and Disclose, 2021) have now shared with readers the meaningful and provocative results of just such a collaboration. Revisiting the history of France's nuclear weapons program over a period of three decades (following an initial set of atmospheric and underground detonations in the Algerian Sahara from 1960 to 1966), Toxique is a scientific and journalistic interrogation of the immediate and long-term health and environmental effects of the 193 bombs the French military exploded in the region, exposing civilians, as well as French military and other personnel to the fallout and radiation emitted by these explosions.

The significance of this interdisciplinary investigation cannot be overstated. As Toxique shows, these nuclear detonations continue to have harmful effects on the everyday lives of thousands of local residents, along with those veterans who served in the area. As Philippe and Statius have shown, the toxicity of these nuclear blasts has been consistently underestimated and misrepresented by the French military and state. Holding important implications for the victims of these detonations in terms of both recognition and financial compensation, the book and its accompanying online platform, Moruroa Files, have made a huge impact. I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with these remarkable researchers and writers and hope listeners will learn from and enjoy our conversation. The more people within and beyond the field of French Studies who are aware of this damaging past and present, the better.

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