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Four decades of French nuclear testing

Text by Julien PEYRON

Latest update : 2009-03-24

In the 36 years that followed the 1960 explosion of the "Gerboise bleue" deep in the Sahara desert, France carried out a total of 210 nuclear tests in its former territory of Algeria and in the Pacific Ocean.

Feb. 13, 1960: France’s first atomic bomb, nicknamed “Gerboise Bleue”, explodes in the atmosphere above the Reggane nuclear test site in the Algerian Sahara desert. The blast is four times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.

March 18, 1962: The Evian Accords put an end to eight years of fighting between France and Algerian independence fighters. A clause specifies that France can use its nuclear test sites in the Algerian desert for a further five years.

May 1, 1962: Radioactive material is released following an incident during an underground shaft test at In Ekker, in the Algerian Sahara.

Feb. 16, 1966: France carries out its last nuclear test in Algeria.

July 2, 1966: First atmospheric nuclear test above the Fangataufa atoll in French Polynesia (Pacific Ocean).

Aug. 24, 1968: France tests its first hydrogen bomb, roughly 170 times more powerful that the Hiroshima bomb, at Fangataufa. 
Aug. 6, 1985: France opts out of the Treaty of Rarotonga, which declares the South Pacific a nuclear weapon-free zone. 

April 8, 1992: French President François Mitterrand declares a one-year moratorium on nuclear tests. The moratorium is renewed during Mitterrand's last years in office.

June 13, 1995: President Jacques Chirac announces a last round of tests.

Jan. 27, 1996: France carries out its last nuclear test at Fangataufa.
March 1996: French authorities sign the Treaty of Rarotonga.


Source: French Ministry of Defence

Date created : 2009-03-24