Legacy of damage caused by French nuclear testing in Algeria

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

In the 1960s, France conducted a total of 17 underground and atmospheric nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara. Ammar Mansouri, 52, chairman of the Algerian Nuclear Technology Academy, who was invited to the World Conference Against A & H Bombs held by the Japan Congress Against A-and H-Bombs, has been making efforts to grasp the true nature of the damage caused by French nuclear testing. “I am determined to disclose the facts that the French government is trying to hide about its nuclear testing,” Mr. Mansouri declared.

The damage done by nuclear testing in Algeria began to come to light in the mid-1990s. A citizen’s organization detected physiological harm often occurring among residents living near the test site and nomads traveling across the Sahara.

“Due to disproportionate blasts, clouds of radiation were released during underground tests and waste materials were dumped in a shallow hole. From a technical standpoint, the poor handling of the nuclear testing by the French government has stood out,” Mr. Mansouri contends.

The detailed effects of nuclear testing, including the extent of nuclear contamination, however, is little known, because the French government is strongly opposed to the disclosure of information on testing, claiming it to be a “state secret.” Mr. Mansouri continued, “Nuclear testing is one example of the violation of human rights in Algeria, a former French colony, and the French government is afraid that the information disclosure might force the government to compensate nuclear testing victims.”

In fact, the French government continued this nuclear testing even after 1962, when Algeria became independent from France and the damage was mounting. Mr. Mansouri explained that a provision secretly added to the agreement for Algerian independence permitted the testing to continue. “The cabinet members of the new Algerian government knew nothing about the terrible damage that nuclear testing was doing. The French government took advantage of the ignorance of their Algerian counterparts in regard to nuclear testing,” Mr. Mansouri stressed.

This is the first time Mr. Mansouri has visited Japan. During his stay, he spoke in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki at events connected with the World Conference Against A & H Bombs. Mr. Mansouri added, “Japan is in a unique position, with the duty it bears to convey to the world the horrific damage of nuclear weapons. Algeria can work together with Japan in this way.”

(Originally published on August 9, 2008)

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