France, which had raised the ire of many nations by going ahead with its underground nuclear testing programme from September
last, may have to face some
more music. Reportedly, the
atomic tests were
not all that safe as
the French had vociferously
proclaimed. Radioactive elements -iodine
131, cesium and tritium - are
said to have
leaked into the
Pacific Ocean as a
consequence of the
tests near Mururoa Atoll in the
South Pacific. French officials,
however, insist that
the quantities leaked
were so small that they posed no
threat to the environment. Greenpeace,
the international environmental
group, seized upon the disclosure
and demanded that France "fully
disclose the contamination data and
immediately stop all further nuclear tests." Protests
from other countries
like Japan to come clean on the
The international pressure seems to have aided the beleaguered French nation to come to a decision about its nuclear programme. After months of facing diplomatic ostracism for having carried out the tests, it finally announced an early halt to the testing. The French move was proclaimed in a broadcast by President Jacques Chirac on January 29 at Paris.
The resumption of the final series of tests by France broke a three year international moratorium on nuclear testing. it had only China as an ally in activating tests of weapons of mass destruction. Defending his decision to continue the tests, Chirac said that though nuclear wespotiry may cause fear, "in an always dangerous world, it acts for us as a weapon of dissausion, a weapon in the service of peace." Meanwhile, China said that it would not halt its underground nuclear blasts until a global test ban treaty comes into effect. Said Chen fan, a foreign ministry spokesperson on January 30, "China has conducted a very limited number of nuclear tests and things will continue to remain that way.
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