France was among the pioneers of nuclear weapon technology. France currently refuses to recognize the number of nuclear weapons it has, but the international community believes that France has the third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, about 300 of which are in deployment. This number raises the question: “Why does France have such a large number of nuclear weapons?” International relations are unstable. Today’s allies may become tomorrow’s enemies, and France knows this fact too well since World War I. In addition to the French nuclear weapons program, the country also has an extensive peaceful nuclear program and generates one of the largest nuclear energy in the world.
Force de frappe
In the late 1950s and 1960s, France created the Force de frappe (Strike Force). These forces were supposed to allow the country to act independently, without the help of NATO, using nuclear deterrence for future superior enemies. Force de Frappe used naval, air and ground nuclear weapons to deter. Today, France’s Nuclear Forces, a unit of the French military, remains the third-largest nuclear force in the world after the United States and Russia.
Testing in French Polynesia
France also conducted 193 trials in French Polynesia in the South Pacific from 1966 to 1996. Initially, the military did not support French Polynesia because of its remoteness from France and the lack of a large airport. However, after Algeria gained independence, the rest of the tests passed in French Polynesia. France conducted its last nuclear test in the South Pacific in 1996. In 2008, the country announced that it had reduced its nuclear arsenal of French air forces by 30%, leaving the Force de Frappe with only 290 nuclear warheads. Today, France has deactivated all of its ground-based nuclear missiles. Between 1996 and 2012, France used powerful supercomputers to model nuclear tests, as well as for training purposes.
Testing in Algerian Sahara
Between 1960 and 1995, France conducted 210 nuclear tests on own territory and abroad. Between 1960 and 1966, the country conducted seventeen trials in French Algeria in the Sahara desert. Thirteen of these tests were underground. In addition to their geographical location, they choose Algeria because of the ongoing Algerian War.
Protests against French nuclear tests
Algerian Sahara tests provoked protests from Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, and Japan. Out of seventeen, during one of the tests, an accident occurred, as a result of which the soldiers and some civilians were exposed to radiation. The Moroccan and Liberian governments condemned the trials. More than 26 African-Asian countries also condemned the trials at the United Nations General Assembly. Between 1960 and 1996, governments, lobby groups, and civil society groups in New Zealand and Australia held several protests against trials in the South Pacific. In 1972, Australia and New Zealand filed France with the International Court of Justice.