A 1980 French army map of a South Pacific island used for nuclear tests shows the atoll was filled with cracks long before the latest blast, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Some experts have warned that Mururoa Atoll, the site of a 20-kiloton nuclear test blast Sept. 5, could crack and release radioactivity.
The Le Monde newspaper in France said the map, drawn before about 100 more tests were conducted, showed that “large cracks developed in the structure of the atoll’s volcano.”
The cracks, the paper said, “reinforce the hypothesis by a large portion of the international scientific community about the possible fracturing of the atoll” that could could release radioactivity “in the years or centuries to come and cause a major ecological catastrophe.”
The sketched diagram that appeared with the article showed several fissures several miles long, as deep as 28,000 feet and up to 11-1/2 feet wide. No information was given about when or how quickly the cracks developed.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said the diagram did not resemble a military document but refused to comment further on the content. Experts at the national Atomic Energy Commission and the Directorate of Nuclear Experimental Centers have said there was no reason to question the atoll’s stability.
But a European Union scientific commission allowed to check the site’s safety said Sept. 30 that the panel was “not given complete access to the atoll and only a portion of the requested information was provided.”
A second test was detonated Sunday on Fangataufa Atoll, near Mururoa.
France plans to stage as many as eight nuclear blasts by the end of May before signing a test ban treaty. The detonations broke a 3-year-old testing moratorium observed by France, the United States, Britain and Russia.
They have drawn international condemnation, which is continuing.
On Sunday night, a youth speeding by on a motorcycle threw a Molotov cocktail at the door of Tahiti’s courthouse to protest the second blast.
No one was hurt and no damage done, said the commander of the French Polynesian forces, Col. Jean-Jacques Plande.
Riot police continued enforcing an uneasy peace in Papeete on Monday, but Plande said he couldn’t rule out the possibility of disturbances by small groups of saboteurs after the Fangataufa test.
France has tripled its contingent of police in Tahiti to more than 1,000 officers since the first test. The show of force has deterred a repeat of anti-nuclear and pro-independence demonstrations that spiraled into riots, looting and arson after that blast.
On Tuesday, about 50 protesters gathered peacefully outside the Territorial Assembly building, demanding legislators reveal their positions on testing.