61 years later, Algerians still suffer from France’s atomic legacy

Experts believe that France’s nuclear past in Algeria should no longer remain buried in the sand.

Jerusalem24 –  France24 reported, that on the morning of February 13, 1960, France tested its first nuclear bomb called “Gerboise Bleue” (Blue Jerboa) in the Tanezrouft region, part of the Sahara that straddles Algeria and Mali, about 30 miles south of Reggane. Gerboise Bleue had an explosion capacity of 70 kilotons, more than four times the strength of Little Boy, the American nuclear weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

At the time, the French authorities claimed that the tests were taking place in uninhabited and deserted areas. However, it was later revealed that thousands of people lived at the sites where France was testing its nuclear weapons. Algerians living in these areas were not properly warned after Paris’s poorly managed nuclear bomb testing campaign around the town of Reggane in 1960, which vitrified vast swathes of desert with heat and plutonium , leaving a legacy of unconfined radiation that still paralyzes residents.

According to the French defense ministry, the number of Algerians affected by the tests was 27,000 but according to figures provided by an Algerian professor of nuclear physics, Abdul Kadhim al Aboudi, the number of people living there was 60,000.

According to experts, nearly 42,000 Algerians were killed and “thousands irradiated” during these particular tests carried out by France between 1960 and 1967. Modest estimates suggest that since 1960 at least 150,000 people have lived, near or traveled in areas where France has tested its atomic weapons.

Damage in Algeria began to emerge in the mid-1990s. A citizens’ organization detected physiological damage often occurring among residents living near the test site as well as among nomads traveling across the Sahara. Several reports have also revealed that the radioactive plutonium used is responsible for high levels of skin cancer in southern Algeria, among many other diseases.

In 1962, Algeria’s war for independence came to an end, at least on paper. The document, simply titled “Declarations established by mutual agreement”, was signed in a town on the French side of Lake Geneva better known for its bottled water than its role in diplomatic history: Evian-les-Bains.

Known as the Evian Accords, the settlement called for an immediate ceasefire and established the parameters for Algeria’s independence.

However, in accordance with a clause in the agreement, France was allowed to continue its testing program until 1967. The Algerian government under the chairmanship of Chadli Bendjedid secretly authorized France to continue its testing at the B2 site -Namous de Reggane until 1986.

When the French finally left Algeria, they buried a range of contaminated objects in both areas – metal from remote-controlled towers that activated the bombs, engine parts from planes that flew into the cloud mushroom. of Gerboise Bleue to collect radiation data and military grade trucks. placed within the radius of the explosion to act as barometers of its power.

Due to the Saharan winds in the region, the sand covering these graves with nuclear waste was washed away. People living in southern Algeria were never told by France of the risks of residual radiation and people started using contaminated items as resources.

Although Paris has been severely criticized for its disregard for safe nuclear containment practices both internally and internationally, it has remained relatively silent on the issue

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