PARIS - France marks the 60th anniversary of nuclear weapons tests that turned it into one of the world’s first nuclear powers. That was at the height of the Cold War. But critics claim more than three decades of testing — first in Algeria and later French Polynesia — left many scars, including victims who remain uncompensated.
On February 13, 1960, France conducted its first nuclear test in Algeria’s southern Sahara desert. "Hurray for France,” then-French President Charles de Gaulle wrote at the time.
But Jean-Claude Hervieux has other memories. He joined the French testing efforts in Algeria as an electrician. He recalls another nuclear test, in 1962, which didn’t go according to plan.
Radioactive dust and rock escaped from underground. Hervieux and others witnessing the testing ran for cover. Two French ministers were among them. The group showered in military barracks to decontaminate. He laughs because it wasn’t often French ministers are seen in the buff.
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