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Samia Henni, French Nuclear Toxicity in the Sahara
On February 13, 1960, in the midst of the Algerian Revolution (1954–1962), the French colonial regime detonated its first over ground atomic bomb at Reggane in the Algerian Sahara Desert. Codenamed “Gerboise Bleue” (Blue Jerboa), it had a blast capacity of 70 kilotons, about 4 times the strength of LittleBoy, the United States’ atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima a month before the end of the Second World War. Blue Jerboa was followed by other atmospheric detonations, as well as various underground nuclear tests, which continued until 1966, four years after Algeria’s formal independence from France. With these toxic imprints, France became the fourth country to possess weapons for mass destruction after the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United Kingdom. However, France's nuclear program in the Sahara spread radioactive fallout across Algeria, North, Central and West Africa, and the Mediterranean (including southern Europe), causing irreversible contaminations among humans, natural and built environments. This paper exposes the toxicity of the norms and forms of this program, including the classification of its very sources.
Fig: Preparation works for “Gerboise Bleue,” Centre saharien d’expérimentations militaires (CSEM, or Saharan Center for Military Experiments), Reggane, Algerian Sahara (January 1960) © Raymond Varoqui / SCA / ECPAD.
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