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Pacific News Minute: Legacy of the Rainbow Warrior, 30 Years On

Cyr0z / Flickr
Cyr0z / Flickr

Environmental activists hope that the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior can help prompt a revival of anti- nuclear activism across the Pacific.  On July 10, 1985, the Greenpeace ship was mined by French secret agents in Auckland Harbor, New Zealand as it was on its way to protest French nuclear tests at Moraroa Atoll.  A photographer was killed in the explosion.  More on the legacy of the Rainbow Warrior from Neal Conan, in our latest Pacific News Minute.

At the time, France denounced what it called a terrorist act.  Much later, after two agents were captured and charged, France admitted that several teams of agents planned and executed the attack.  Dubbed, Operation Satanique, which had been ordered by then President Francois Mitterand.  The French government paid Greenpeace more than 8-million dollars compensation.

The attack, in particular the death of photographer Fernando Pereira, profoundly influenced New Zealand.  The following year it ruptured long standing defense ties to the United States when it banned visits by nuclear armed or nuclear powered vessels and reoriented foreign policy away from Washington and to a lesser degree London, and more towards Australia and its smaller Pacific Ocean neighbors.

After a pause, Nuclear weapons tests resumed at Moraroa and ended only in 1996.  Anti-nuclear campaigns ebbed afterwards, but now the issue activists say, is the radio-active poison left behind.  In the Marshall Islands for example, Bikini Atoll is far too radioactive for the displaced population ever to return, and there is great concern over a deposit of plutonium contaminated soil that the U.S. dumped into an atom bomb crater on the tiny islet of Runit, which is part of Eniwetok atoll.  A concrete cap built over the crater may now be vulnerable to both cyclones and sea level rise.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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