Two French experts called, in an article published, Monday, by the daily “Le Monde”, on the French government to cooperate with the Algerian authorities in order to find radioactive materials buried in southern Algeria as a result of the seventeen nuclear tests carried out by France.
Patrice Bouvre and Jean-Marie Colin said: “More than fifty years after the last French nuclear test in the Algerian Sahara, France’s nuclear past should not remain buried in the sand. It is time to extract the waste resulting from the seventeen nuclear experiments carried out by France in the Sahara between 1960 and 1966, with the aim of ensuring the health safety of present and future generations, preserving the environment, and opening a new stage for relations between Algeria and France”.
After stating that “the environmental and social damage” from the French nuclear tests in Polynesia had been taken into account and the repair process had been initiated, the two French experts expressed their regret that Algeria did not benefit from the same treatment.
The two experts pointed out that the presence of radioactive materials that are voluntarily buried at the level of the experimental sites and radioactive materials (sand mixed with glass and contaminated rocks) resulting from the experiments’ explosions, remains a subject of taboos in France. This presence resulted in “major health risks to the local population, future generations, as well as the environment,” they argued.
The study was carried out on the basis of testimonies, field visits, and a set of documents, including the classified report “Confidential Defense”, which was submitted to the archives of the French Ministry of Defense.
Patrice Bouvre and Jean-Marie Colin considered that “after Algeria and 121 other countries ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on July 7, 2017, the French nuclear test issue found an additional justification for getting out of the denial of reality”.
They indicated that “the entry into the treaty has come soon after it has been ratified by 44 out of 50 countries at least”. They affirmed that France must provide Algeria with “technical assistance and information about the areas in which the waste is buried and thus make the implementation of the various obligations of the treaty possible”.
The two experts consider that “the fierce opposition of France to the treaty cannot be an excuse to keep more data that would put an end to a humanitarian problem.” Moreover, this would be against the path of reconciliation between the French and Algerian peoples, as President Emmanuel Macron said.
They asked: “How can this work of memory leave aside tens of thousands of Algerians (…) (Editorial note: With their bodies) participated in this dark atomic adventure that they are so far bearing its effects”.
They clarified that if the implementation of some measures within the framework of this cooperation “will need time” (radiological expertise and a health study of the dangers transmitted through generations), then there are other measures that can be undertaken with a simple political decision.
Accordingly, the French Defense Minister could “quickly send the Algerian authorities a list of landfill areas,” noting that “this request is currently being discussed by French MPs in Parliament”.
“The time has come for France to open its archives and swiftly implement these measures to get out of the nuclear test issue,” the experts concluded.