Laxity to be probed

taking into account charges levelled against the French government, alleging that it had downplayed risks to public health after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a judge has ordered that official documents be seized as part of a probe to establish the truth. The accusations have been made by the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (criirad). A nuclear physicist has been appointed by Paris judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy, who would compare radioactivity levels mentioned in government, police, nuclear and energy authority documents with those given to the media.

In 2001, Bertella-Geffroy opened an official investigation into whether French citizens fell sick because of Chernobyl after 51 plaintiffs with thyroid ailments filed lawsuits against the government for involuntary physical injury and wilful disregard of duty to ensure public safety. Another 125 who have suffered the aftermath have since filed lawsuits and more are expected to join the legal action.

In April 1986, a radioactive cloud drifted west from Chernobyl in Ukraine after a reactor exploded. The cloud passed across France between April 27 and May 5. Even though West Germany, Austria and Italy took various precautions, French authorities said there was no need for special measures to protect against health risks from the radioactive fallout and kept the French citizens in the dark.

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