In Focus

Published: Thursday 29 February 1996

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 radiation leakage soon followed.

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.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.