Polynesians fear 20-metre tsunami from nuclear atoll

Nuclear test mushroom cloud above Mururoa Atoll

French scientist warns that part of radioactive Mururoa atoll could break off and trigger a tsunami

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 12:24 ON Thu 17 Mar 2011

The president of French Polynesia has asked France to send scientists to assess the risk that the Mururoa atoll, which was used as a nuclear bomb test site for 30 years, could collapse into the Pacific Ocean and unleash a tsunami 20 metres high on the surrounding islands.

Polynesians have been watching the events in Japan - caused by a 10-metre high tsunami - with mounting alarm.  The fear that part of the Mururoa atoll might collapse into the sea is not new. Back in 1997, one year after the final, highly controversial, nuclear test, an official report referred to the risk.

Now locals have seized on an admission by a French nuclear safety official, Marcel Jurien de la Graviere, that "the possibility of a collapse of part of the Mururoa atoll cannot be ruled out".

President Gaston Tong Sang writes in his letter to his opposite number Nicolas Sarkozy that there is disquiet among French Polynesians, who fear not only a 20-metre high tsunami washing over their islands, but also the release of radioactive material which has so far been entombed in the atoll. De la Graviere suggested that people on nearby Tureia atoll could be exposed to radiation 300 times the level in France.

Meanwhile, locals have told ABC News that there are places on Mururoa atoll where the road has sunk two metres below sea level and that there are huge cracks in the coral.

Tong Sang wants Paris to set up an alarm system, although its usefulness would be questionable given that Tureia has a maximum elevation of a few metres and is only 70 miles away from Mururoa. · 

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