Another series of French nuclear tests in the South Pacific seems imminent. French Government officials?
Another series of French nuclear tests in the South Pacific seems imminent. French Government officials will not say when the tests will occur nor give any indications of the size of the blasts, but they have admitted further underground testing on the Atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa will take place.
The French Defence Minister, M. Bourges said last week that a summer test campaign was planned for the area, and that there would be several underground explosions this year.
France has already warned shipping to keep 30 miles clear of the two atolls, which lie about 800 miles South-east of Tahiti, France's nuclear test headquarters.
The Australian and New Zealand Governments, which violently opposed the last series of tests in the South Pacific in 1973, have issued statements saying they once again oppose any form of nuclear blasts in the area.
The purpose of the new tests is to determine or verify the engineering of a new generation of thermonuclear - H-Bomb - warheads for France's intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Underground explosions should not release radioactive debris into the atmosphere if the blast hole is properly designed and plugged.
The French conducted their first underground nuclear blast in the South Pacific on 5 June 1975. The test took place on the Fangataufa Atoll at the bottom of a well 600-800 metres deep bored into the basalt rock under the coral reef.
This test is believed to be the first of the current campaign, but the French Government will neither confirm nor deny this. However, they have confirmed that the future tests will take place on the Mururoa Atoll.