A toxic blast from the past: How Algeria still suffers contamination from France’s nuclear legacy


bdelkrim Touhami smiles. In his late 70s now, he’s had this conversation before. Nevertheless, he relaxes into his chair as, over the video screen from Tamanrasset in Southern Algeria, he describes the French nuclear tests that took place close to his home and their brutal legacy that persists to this day.

In total, France carried out seventeen nuclear tests between 1960 and 1967, eleven in military installations earmarked for French use after the country gained independence in 1962.

Much of the waste and detritus from those tests, including tanks, helicopters and entire aircraft that were used to test the radiation lies buried in the sand; up to 3,000 tonnes, according to recent estimates by the French branch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, (ICAN France).

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