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A colonial scandal long forgotten

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A colonial scandal long forgotten

A colonial scandal long forgotten

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War this environmental crime thriller exposes a colonial scandal long forgotten.

By the mid-1980s nuclear weapons testing had polluted land, air and sea worldwide with colonial powers using their overseas territories as testing grounds and sometimes the indigenous population as guinea pigs.

The UK had carried out tests on sacred Aboriginal land in Australia and on Christmas Island. The USSR used modern-day Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. France exploited land and sea in Algeria and French Polynesia, while the USA had the ‘Pacific Proving Grounds’ of the Marshall Islands.

This episode joins the crew of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, in May 1985. A symbol of peace, the ship responds to an appeal by the residents of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands, whose inhabitants were suffering the horrific effects of nuclear fallout following the 1954 US testing of H-bomb ‘Bravo’ – a weapon one thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Thyroid cancer and birth deformities were alarmingly high, yet US scientists believed that leaving people on the island would “afford valuable radiation data on human beings”.

The Rainbow Warrior’s next stop is Auckland harbour, New Zealand, from where the crew were to lead a flotilla of boats protesting against French nuclear tests at the nearby French Polynesian atoll of Mururoa. Their mission is stopped when two explosions sink the ship killing a crew member. The hunt for the perpetrators begins.

Murder in the Pacific, BBC Two, 9pm

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