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Algeria says France must take responsibility for nuclear waste in Sahara

February 9, 2021 at 3:34 pm

General Jean Thiry speaking to journalists about the explosion, on December 27, 1960, of the third French atomic bomb on the test polygon at Reggane in the Sahara, Algeria [AFP via Getty Images]

Algeria’s senior military official, Bouzid Boufrioua, has called on France to take responsibility for the waste left in the Sahara after its nuclear tests there in the 1960s. Brigadier General Boufrioua is the head of the combat engineering department of the Land Forces Command and made his comments during an interview published in the February edition of Algeria’s Army Magazine.

The French colonial authorities conducted a series of nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara between 1960 and 1966. Seventeen tests were carried out altogether. Algeria’s state institutions and civil society organisations have been demanding that France should reveal the location of its nuclear waste in the Sahara.

“Sixty years after its nuclear tests, France still refuses to reveal the location of its nuclear waste and compensate the victims of disease caused by radiation,” said the magazine.

READ: Calls for France to reveal location of nuclear waste dumped in Algeria

Boufrioua pointed out that the tide has turned on such issues. “On 7 July 2017, 122 member states of the UN General Assembly ratified a new treaty to ban the use of nuclear weapons.” He explained that the treaty “clearly and explicitly recognises the ‘polluter pays’ principle; this is the first time that the international community has called on the nuclear-armed states to rectify the errors of the past.”

The treaty came into force in January last year. However, countries like France, the United States, Britain, Russia, and China refused to sign the agreement. They are the states whose nuclear weapons gave them the “authority” to be the only permanent members of the UN Security Council, with each one having a right to veto any resolution.