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Between the Cold War Arms Race and African Decolonization: Fallout Risks from French Nuclear Weapons Tests in Algeria (1960–66)
Proof that France had become the world’s fourth nuclear power exploded above the Algerian Sahara in February 1960, during the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62). Sixteen more blasts would take place before France abandoned its Saharan test sites in 1966, which had continued to host French explosions underground during the first years of Algerian Independence. Well before the first airborne detonation, and even after French testing went below ground, the likelihood that radioactive debris (known as fallout) would contaminate the desert environment and its human inhabitants animated an international controversy. Saharan fallout loomed at once as a new threat to Algerian and African sovereignty and to Cold War negotiations that promised to limit weapons testing, revealing historical intersections between African decolonization and the nuclear arms race.

Mar 3, 2021 11:30 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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