In June, French President Jacques Chirac revealed that nuclear tests would be conducted in the Pacific at the Mururoa coral atoll. These tests, Chirac, stated, would consist of eight nuclear explosions in a tunnel 1,800 to 3,000 feet below Mururoa beginning in September up until May 96. Chirac declares that these tests are necessary for computer simulation in the future.
France has been bombarded with criticism, not only from environmental activists, but also from political standpoints. Japan and Australia officially protested French experiments and have convinced other Asian and Pacific nations to agree. New Zealand and Chile have recalled their ambassadors from France and the Japanese are presently protesting outside of their French embassy. 56% of the citizens in France polled oppose the tests and 60% want Chirac to reconsider his position. Stung by the criticism, France may cancel one out of the eight scheduled nuclear tests. Even the renowned Jacques Cousteau has publicly asked Chirac to rescind the tests. Cousteau has even resigned from the government agency Council for the Rights of Future Generations, in protest.
France, along with the United States and Great Britain, has not signed a treaty completely prohibiting the detonation of any nuclear device in the South Pacific. Many of the protesting nations located in the Pacific have signed and support this treaty . Also, France has not followed the initiative of most of the nations of the developed world in signing a 1971 treaty prohibiting "the emplacement of nuclear weapons ... on the ocean floor and in the subsoil thereof."
Besides public and international disapproval, France may suffer other side effects because of the nuclear testing. The explosive power of the blast is just less than 20 kilotons (20,000 tons of TNT). The bomb on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. New Japanese research shows that bomb radiation increases risk of long term cancer. Radiation causes ionization in the molecules of...
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