Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
France and weapons of mass destruction

France and weapons of mass destruction

Discussion
Ask a question about 'France and weapons of mass destruction'
Start a new discussion about 'France and weapons of mass destruction'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

is known to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

. France is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

; but is not known to possess or develop any chemical or biological weapons. France was the fourth country to test an independently developed nuclear weapon in 1960, under the government of Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

. The French military
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

 is currently thought to retain a weapons stockpile
Stockpile (military)
In military preparation, to stockpile is to move materiel, personnel, and command and control infrastructure to a suitable location in preparation for deployment, or to move such materials into the theatre of war in preparation for combat....

 of around 300 operational nuclear warheads, making it the third-largest in the world. The weapons are part of the national Force de frappe
Force de frappe
The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...

, developed in the late 1950s and 1960s to give France the ability to distance itself from NATO while having a means of nuclear deterrence under sovereign control.

France did not sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty
Partial Test Ban Treaty
The treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, often abbreviated as the Partial Test Ban Treaty , Limited Test Ban Treaty , or Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons...

, which gave it the option to conduct further nuclear tests until it signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not entered into force.-Status:...

 in 1996 and 1998 respectively. France denies currently having chemical weapons, ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention
Chemical Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

 (CWC) in 1995, and acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1984. France had also ratified the Geneva Protocol
Geneva Protocol
The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered...

 in 1926.

History


France was one of the nuclear pioneers, going back to the work of Marie Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

. Curie’s last assistant Bertrand Goldschmidt became the father of the French Bomb. This was discontinued after the war because of the instability of the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

 and the lack of finance available. During the Second World War Goldschmidt invented the now-standard method for extracting plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

 while working as part of the British/Canadian
Montreal Laboratory
The Montreal Laboratory in Montreal, Quebec, Canada was established by the National Research Council of Canada to undertake nuclear research, and to take over some of the scientists and projects from the Tube Alloys nuclear project in Britain...

 team participating in the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

. But after the Liberation in 1945, France had to start again almost from scratch. Nevertheless, the first French reactor went critical in 1948 and small amounts of plutonium were extracted in 1949. There was no formal commitment to a nuclear weapons program at that time, although plans were made to build reactors for the large scale production of plutonium.

However, in the 1950s a civilian nuclear research program
Nuclear power in France
Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France. In 2004, 425.8 TWh out of the country's total production of 540.6 TWh of electricity was from nuclear power , the highest percentage in the world....

 was started, a byproduct of which would be plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

. In 1956 a secret Committee for the Military Applications of Atomic Energy was formed and a development program for delivery vehicles was started. The intervention of the United States in the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 that year is credited with convincing France that it needed to accelerate its own nuclear weapons program to remain a global power. In 1957, soon after Suez and the resulting diplomatic tension with both the USSR and the United States, French president René Coty
René Coty
René Jules Gustave Coty was President of France from 1954 to 1959. He was the second and last president under the French Fourth Republic.-Early life and politics:...

 decided on the creation of the C.S.E.M. in the then French Sahara, a new nuclear tests facility replacing the C.I.E.E.S. With the return of Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 to the presidency of France in the midst of the May 1958 crisis
May 1958 crisis
The May 1958 crisis was a political crisis in France during the turmoil of the Algerian War of Independence which led to the return of Charles de Gaulle to political responsibilities after a ten year absence...

, the final decisions to build an atomic bomb were taken, and a successful test took place in 1960. Since then France has developed and maintained its own nuclear deterrent
Force de frappe
The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...

.

France was eager to cooperate with other countries on nuclear weapons. In May 1954 the French were far from victory in the war in Indochina against Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh , born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader who was prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam...

.

In 1956 the French agreed to secretly build the Dimona nuclear reactor
Negev Nuclear Research Center
The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona. The purpose of Dimona is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts have...

 in Israel and soon after agreed to construct a reprocessing plant for the extraction of plutonium at the site. The following year Euratom
European Atomic Energy Community
The European Atomic Energy Community is an international organisation which is legally distinct from the European Union , but has the same membership, and is governed by the EU's institutions....

 was created, and under cover of the peaceful use of nuclear power the French signed deals with Germany and Italy to work together on nuclear weapons development. The West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

 told his cabinet that he "wanted to achieve, through EURATOM, as quickly as possible, the chance of producing our own nuclear weapons". The idea was short-lived. In 1958 de Gaulle became President and Germany and Italy were excluded.

France is understood to have tested neutron
Neutron bomb
A neutron bomb or enhanced radiation weapon or weapon of reinforced radiation is a type of thermonuclear weapon designed specifically to release a large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation rather than explosive energy...

 or enhanced radiation bombs in the past, apparently leading the field with an early test of the technology in 1967 and an 'actual' neutron bomb in 1980.

Testing


There were 210 French nuclear tests from 1960 until 1996. 17 of them were done in the Algerian Sahara between 1960 and 1966, starting in the middle of the Algerian War (1954–1962). 193 were carried out in French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

.

Saharan experiments centers (1960–1966)



A series of atmospheric tests was conducted by the Centre Saharien d'Expérimentations Militaires ("Saharan Military Experiments Center") from February 1960 until April 1961.

The first French atmospheric nuclear test, called "Gerboise bleue" ("blue jerboa") took place on 13 February 1960 in the French Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

, during the Algerian War (1954–62). The explosion took place at 40 km from the military base of Reggane
Reggane
Reggane from berber argan is a town in the Adrar Province of central Algeria, in the Sahara Desert. It is the southernmost town of the Tuat....

, which is the last town on the Tanezrouft
Tanezrouft
The Tanezrouft is one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara desert. It is situated along the borders among Algeria, Niger and Mali, west of the Hoggar mountains.-Geographic features:...

 Track heading south across the Sahara to Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, and 700 km south of Béchar
Béchar
Béchar , formerly known as Colomb-Béchar, is a capital city of Béchar Province, Algeria. The area is controlled by Algeria, though claims have also been made on it by Morocco. In 1998 the city had a population of 134,954....

. The device had a 70 kiloton yield. Although Algeria became independent in 1962 France continued nuclear tests there until 1966 although the later tests were underground rather than atmospheric. The General Pierre Marie Gallois
Pierre Marie Gallois
Pierre Marie Gallois was a French air force brigadier general and geopolitician. He was instrumental in the constitution of the French nuclear arsenal. This earned him the nickname of father of the French atom bomb...

 was named le père de la bombe A ("Father of the A-bomb").

Three other atmospheric tests were carried out from 1 April 1960 to 25 April 1961. These four atmospheric tests were carried out at with a forward base at Hammoudia near Reggane. Military, workers and the nomadic Touareg population of the region were assisted at the test sites, without any significant protection. At most, a shower after each test according to L'Humanité
L'Humanité
L'Humanité , formerly the daily newspaper linked to the French Communist Party , was founded in 1904 by Jean Jaurès, a leader of the French Section of the Workers' International...

. Gerboise Rouge (5kt), the third atomic bomb, half as powerful as Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

, exploded on 27 December 1960, provoking protests from Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, USSR, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 and Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

.

After the independence of Algeria on 5 July 1962, following the 19 March Evian agreements, the French military moved to In Ecker, also in the Algerian Sahara. The Evian agreements included a secret article which stated that "Algeria concede... to France the use of certain air bases, terrains, sites and military installations which are necessary to it [France]" during five years.

The C.S.E.M. was therefore replaced by the Centre d'Expérimentations Militaires des Oasis ("Military Experiments Center of the Oasis") underground tests facility. Experimentations lasted from November 1961 until February 1966. The 13 underground tests were carried out at In Ekker, 150 km north of Tamanrasset, from 7 November 1961 to 16 February 1966. By July 1, 1967, all French facilities were evacuated.

An accident happened on May 1, 1962, during the "Béryl
Béryl incident
The "Béryl incident" was a French nuclear test, conducted on May 1 1962, during which nine soldiers of the 621st Groupe d'Armes Spéciales unit were heavily contaminated by radiation....

" test, four times more powerful than Hiroshima and designed as an underground shaft test. Due to improper sealing of the shaft, radioactive rock and dust were released into the atmosphere. Nine soldiers of the 621st Groupe d'Armes Spéciales unit were heavily contaminated by radiation
Radiation
In physics, radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energetic waves travel through a medium or space. There are two distinct types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing...

. The soldiers were exposed to as much as 600 mSv. The Minister of Armed Forces, Pierre Messmer
Pierre Messmer
Pierre Joseph Auguste Messmer was a French Gaullist politician. He served as Minister of Armies under Charles de Gaulle from 1960 to 1969 – the longest serving since Étienne François, duc de Choiseul under Louis XV – and then as Prime Minister under Georges Pompidou from 1972 to 1974...

, and the Minister of Research, Gaston Palewski
Gaston Palewski
Gaston Palewski , French politician, was a close associate of Charles de Gaulle during and after World War II. He is also remembered as the lover of the English novelist Nancy Mitford, and appears in a fictionalised form in two of her novels.-Biography:Palewski was born in Paris, the son of an...

, were present. As many as 100 additional personnel, including officials, soldiers and Algerian workers were exposed to lower levels of radiation, estimated at about 50 mSv, when the radioactive cloud produced by the blast passed over the command post, due to an unexpected change in wind direction. They escaped as they could, often without wearing any protection. Palewski died in 1984 of leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

, which he always attributed to the Beryl incident. In 2006, Bruno Barillot, specialist of nuclear tests, measured on the site 93 microsievert
Sievert
The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

s by hour of gamma ray, equivalent to 1% of the official admissible yearly dose. The incident was documented in the 2006 docudrama "Vive La Bombe!"

Saharan facilities

  • C.I.E.E.S. (Centre Interarmées d'Essais d'Engins Spéciaux): Hammaguir
    Hammaguir
    Hammaguir is a town in Algeria, south-west of Béchar. Between 1947 and 1967 there was a rocket launch site near Hammaguir, used by France for launching sounding rockets and the satellite carrier "Diamant" between 1965 and 1967....

    , 120 km southwest of Colomb-Béchar
    Béchar
    Béchar , formerly known as Colomb-Béchar, is a capital city of Béchar Province, Algeria. The area is controlled by Algeria, though claims have also been made on it by Morocco. In 1998 the city had a population of 134,954....

    :
used for launching rockets from 1947 to 1967. http://fuseurop.univ-perp.fr/sahara_e.htm
  • C.S.E.M. (Centre Saharien d'Expérimentations Militaires): Reggane
    Reggane
    Reggane from berber argan is a town in the Adrar Province of central Algeria, in the Sahara Desert. It is the southernmost town of the Tuat....

    , west of In-Salah, Tanezrouft
    Tanezrouft
    The Tanezrouft is one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara desert. It is situated along the borders among Algeria, Niger and Mali, west of the Hoggar mountains.-Geographic features:...

    :
used for atmospheric tests from 1960 to 1961.
  • C.E.M.O. (Centre d'Expérimentations Militaires des Oasis): In Ekker, in the Hoggar
    Ahaggar Mountains
    The Ahaggar Mountains , also known as the Hoggar, are a highland region in central Sahara, or southern Algeria, along the Tropic of Cancer. They are located about 1,500 km  south of the capital, Algiers and just west of Tamanghasset. The region is largely rocky desert with an average...

    , 150 km from Tamanrasset, Tan Afella mount:
used for underground tests from 1961 to 1967.

Pacific experiments center (1966–1996)


A total of 193 nuclear tests were carried out in Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

 from 1966 to 1996.

Atmospheric tests at Mururoa & Fangataufa



The French began development of the hydrogen bomb and built a new test range on the French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

n islands of Mururoa and Fangataufa
Fangataufa
Fangataufa is a small, low, narrow, coral atoll in the eastern side of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Along with its neighboring atoll, Moruroa, it has been the site of approximately 200 nuclear bomb tests....

. On 24 August 1968 France succeeded in detonating a thermonuclear weapon - codenamed Canopus - over Fangataufa. A fission device ignited a lithium 6 deuteride secondary inside a jacket of highly enriched uranium to create a 2.6 megaton
TNT equivalent
TNT equivalent is a method of quantifying the energy released in explosions. The ton of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 4.184 gigajoules, which is approximately the amount of energy released in the detonation of one ton of TNT...

 blast which left the whole atoll uninhabitable because of radioactive contamination.

Current nuclear doctrine and strategy



In 2006, French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 President Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

, noted that France would be willing to use nuclear weapons against a state attacking France via terrorist means. He noted that the French nuclear forces had been configured for this option.

On 21 March 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 announced that France will reduce its plane-based nuclear arsenal (which currently consists of 60 TN-81 warheads) by a third (i.e. 20 warheads), thus bringing the total French nuclear arsenal to fewer than 300 warheads.

WikiLeaks diplomatic cables titled "NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION TREATY (NPT) BILATERALS" sent on 6 August 2009 and "FRANCE'S POSITION ON NUCLEAR ISSUES IN THE RUN-UP" sent on 31 July 2009; make it possible to gain an insight to France's thought with regards to nuclear weapons, NPT and disarmament issues. In another cable titled "DOUBTS AND REASSURANCES ABOUT REPLACING BRITAIN'S TRIDENT NUCLEAR DETERRENT" sent on 24 July 2009, it is possible to view French worries to UK's decision making discussions regarding the UK's Trident nuclear weapons.

Anti nuclear tests protests



  • By 1968 only France and China were detonating nuclear weapons in the open air and the contamination caused by the H Bomb blast led to a global protest movement against further French atmospheric tests.

  • From the early 1960s New Zealand peace groups CND and the Peace Media had been organising nationwide anti nuclear campaigns in protest of atmospheric testing
    Nuclear testing
    Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

     in French Polynesia
    French Polynesia
    French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

    . These included two large national petitions presented to the New Zealand government which led to a joint New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

     and Australian Government action to take France to the International Court of Justice
    International Court of Justice
    The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

     (1972). http://www.disarmsecure.org/publications/papers/index.html

  • In 1972, Greenpeace
    Greenpeace
    Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

     and an amalgam of New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

     peace groups managed to delay nuclear tests by several weeks by trespassing with a ship in the testing zone. During the time, the skipper, David McTaggart
    David McTaggart
    David Fraser McTaggart was a Canadian-born environmentalist who played a central part in the foundation of Greenpeace International....

    , was beaten and severely injured by members of the French military.

  • In 1973 the New Zealand Peace Media organised an international flotilla of protest yachts including the Fri
    Fri (yacht)
    Fri is a yacht that spearheaded an international protest of a flotilla of yachts in a voyage against atmospheric nuclear tests at Moruroa in French Polynesia in 1973...

    , Spirit of Peace, Boy Roel, Magic Island and the Tanmure to sail into the test exclusion zone.http://library.bullerdc.govt.nz/cgi-bin/library/liinquiry?acc=00000711

  • In 1973, New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk
    Norman Kirk
    Norman Eric Kirk was the 29th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972 until his sudden death in 1974. He led the Parliamentary wing of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1965 to 1974. He was the fourth Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, but the first to be born in New Zealand...

     as a symbolic act of protest sent two navy frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Otago
    HMNZS Otago
    HMNZS Otago was a Rothesay Class Type 12 Frigate, acquired from the Royal Navy before completion. She was launched on 11 December 1958 by Princess Margaret, and was commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy on 22 June 1960....

    , to Mururoa.http://www.mururoavet.com/ They were accompanied by HMAS Supply
    HMAS Supply
    HMAS Supply was a of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Australian Navy ....

    , a fleet oiler of the Royal Australian Navy
    Royal Australian Navy
    The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

    .

  • In 1985 the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior
    Rainbow Warrior (1978)
    The Rainbow Warrior was a former UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food trawler later purchased by the environmental organisation Greenpeace...

    was bombed and sunk
    Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior
    The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique, was an operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure , carried out on July 10, 1985...

     by the French DGSE
    Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure
    The General Directorate for External Security is France's external intelligence agency. Operating under the direction of the French ministry of defence, the agency works alongside the DCRI in providing intelligence and national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence...

     in Auckland
    Auckland
    The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

    , New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

    , as it prepared for another protest of nuclear testing in French military zones. One crew member, Fernando Pereira
    Fernando Pereira
    Fernando Pereira was a freelance Dutch photographer, of Portuguese origin, who drowned when French intelligence used two underwater mines to sink the ship Rainbow Warrior, owned by the environmental organisation Greenpeace on July 10, 1985 .The bombing of the boat had been designed to make the ship...

     of Portugal
    Portugal
    Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

    , photographer, drowned on the sinking ship while attempting to recover his photographic equipment. Two members of DGSE were captured and sentenced, but eventually repatriated to France in a controversial affair.

  • French president Jacques Chirac’s
    Jacques Chirac
    Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

     decision to run a nuclear test series at Mururoa in 1995, just one year before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
    The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 but it has not entered into force.-Status:...

     was to be signed, caused worldwide protest, including an embargo
    Embargo
    An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

     of French wine. These tests were meant to provide the nation with enough data to improve further nuclear technology without needing additional series of tests.

  • The French Military
    Military of France
    The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

     conducted more than 200 nuclear tests
    Nuclear testing
    Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

     at Mururoa and Fangataufa
    Fangataufa
    Fangataufa is a small, low, narrow, coral atoll in the eastern side of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Along with its neighboring atoll, Moruroa, it has been the site of approximately 200 nuclear bomb tests....

     atolls over a thirty year period ending 1996, 40 of them atmospheric. In August 2006, an official report by the French government
    Government of France
    The government of the French Republic is a semi-presidential system determined by the French Constitution of the fifth Republic. The nation declares itself to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic"...

     confirmed the link between an increase in the cases of thyroid cancer
    Thyroid cancer
    Thyroid neoplasm is a neoplasm or tumor of the thyroid. It can be a benign tumor such as thyroid adenoma, or it can be a malignant neoplasm , such as papillary, follicular, medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. Most patients are 25 to 65 years of age when first diagnosed; women are more affected...

     and France’s atmospheric nuclear tests in the territory since 1966.

Veterans' associations and symposium


An association gathering veterans of nuclear tests (AVEN, "Association des vétérans des essais nucléaires") was created in 2001. Along with the Polynesian NGO Moruroa e tatou, the AVEN announced on 27 November 2002 that it would depose a complaint against X (unknown) for involuntary homicide and putting someone’s life in danger. On 7 June 2003, for the first time, the military court of Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

 granted an invalidity pension to a veteran of the Sahara tests. According to a poll made by the AVEN with its members, only 12% have declared being in good health. An international symposium on the consequences of test carried out in Algeria took place on 13 and 14 February 2007, under the official oversight of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Abdelaziz Bouteflika is the ninth President of Algeria. He has been in office since 1999. He continued emergency rule until 24 February 2011, and presided over the end of the bloody Algerian Civil War in 2002...

.

150,000 civilians without taking into account the local population are estimated to have been on the location of nuclear tests, in Algeria or in French Polynesia. One French veteran of the 1960s nuclear tests in Algeria described being given no protective clothing or masks, while being ordered to witness the tests at so close a range that the flash penetrated through the arm he used to cover his eyes. One of several veteran’s groups claiming to organise those suffering ill effects, AVEN had 4500 members in early 2009.

Test victims compensation


In both Algeria and French Polynesia there have been long standing demands for compensation from those who claim injury from France’s nuclear testing program. The government of France had consistently denied, since the late 1960s, that injury to military personnel and civilians had been caused by their nuclear testing. Several French veterans and African and Polynesian campaign groups have waged court cases and public relations struggles demanding government reparations. In May 2009, a group of twelve French veterans, in the campaign group "Truth and Justice", who claim to have suffered health effects from nuclear testing in the 1960s had their claims denied by the government Commission for the Indemnification of Victims of Penal Infraction (CIVI), and again by a Paris appeals court, citing laws which set a statute of limitations for damages to 1976. Following this rejection, the government announced it would create a 10m Euro compensation fund for military and civilian victims of its testing programme; both those carried out in the 1960s and the Polynesian tests of 1990–1996. Defence Minister Hervé Morin
Hervé Morin
Hervé Morin is a French politician, leader of the New Center party and a former French Minister of Defence.-Member of National Assembly:...

 said the government would create a board of physicians, overseen by a French judge magistrate, to determine if individual cases were caused by French testing, and if individuals were suffering from illnesses on a United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation was set up by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1955. 21 countries are designated to provide scientists to serve as members of the committee which holds formal meetings annually and submits a report to...

 list of eighteen disorders linked to exposure to testing. Pressure groups, including the Veterans group "Truth and Justice" criticised the programme as too restrictive in illnesses covered and too bureaucratic. Polynesian groups said the bill would also unduly restrict applicants to those who had been in small areas near the test zones, not taking into account the pervasive pollution and radiation. Algerian groups had also complained that these restrictions would deny compensation to many victims. One Algerian group estimated there were 27,000 still living victims of ill effects from the 1960-66 testing there, while the French government had given an estimate of just 500.

Non-nuclear WMD


France denies currently having chemical weapons, ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention
Chemical Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

 (CWC) in 1995, and acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1984. France had also ratified the Geneva Protocol
Geneva Protocol
The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered...

 in 1926.

See also

  • Force de frappe
    Force de frappe
    The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...

  • French 'Simulation' project (to replace live nuclear testing) (in French, French Wikipedia)
  • List of states with nuclear weapons
  • Moruroa
    Moruroa
    Moruroa , also historically known as Aopuni, is an atoll which forms part of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean...

  • Nuclear-free zone - New Zealand
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
    Weapons of mass destruction
    A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...


External links