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France's Nuclear Weapons Program

Timeline created by facebooker_3230531 in History
Event Date: Event Title: Event Description:
Timeline small square Meeting between French nuclear scientists re: Uranium Mining Edgar Sengier, managing director of Union Miniere, which controlled access to the uranium ore in the Belgian Congo. Also present was Frederic Joliot-Curie, who with his fellow scientists proposed developing and then exploding a uranium bomb in the Sahara Desert.
Timeline small square Lt. Jacques Allier sent to Norway to purchase existing Heavy Water supply Germans also wanted to purchase the heavy water supply, but France was able to outbid them.
Timeline small square German invasion of France This invasion slowed down France's nuclear research considerably. Primary concern after invasion was to keep raw materials out of German hands.
Timeline small square Allier returned to Norway to secure more heavy water for France
Timeline small square Creation of the French Atomic Energy Commission No program to build nuclear weapons was built along with the commission. The CEA was independent of the military establishment, and its first objective, the construction of a small reactor, was to be accomplished in the open.
Timeline small square First reactor, EL-1 or ZOE, went critical ZOE reactor was Zero power, uranium Oxide, Eau lourde [heavy water]. Employed for research and training and produce minute amounts of plutonium and radioisotopes.
Timeline small square France's Second Plant - Laboratory Scale Extraction Facility
Timeline small square Joliot-Curie replaced as High Commissioner of CEA Joliot-Curie, a Communist, had become increasingly hostile to the notion of France developing a nuclear weapons capability, fearful that they might use it against the USSR
Timeline small square French troops defeated by Viet Minh - LOSS OF PRESTIGE French loss in IndoChina signaled end of French colonialism there and dealt a severe blow to French prestige. Development of an atomic bomb was seen as a means of restoring France's status, and ensuring a greater voice among the Western allies.
Timeline small square First funds for bomb program transferred to CEA CEA's nuclear development plan called for an extension of the basic nuclear infrastructure, including a graphite-moderated reactor and a chemical-processing plant to produce plutonium
Timeline small square G-1 Plutonium Reactor at Marcoule went critical Reached full power in September of that year.
Timeline small square Suez Crisis Reinforced France's desire for nuclear weapons
Timeline small square PM Gaillard signed directive ordering construction of a device to be tested in 1960 In July of that year supreme authority over France's nuclear program passed to Charles de Gaulle
Timeline small square Moratorium on Atmospheric Testing Begins
Timeline small square France's FIRST NUCLEAR TEST Plutonium device on a 344-ft tower detonated
Timeline small square France's 4th Nuclear Test - yeild less than 1 kiloton Device detonated early because OAS (French generals and settlers) revolted in "Revolt of the Generals" on opposition to de Gaulle's plan to disengage from Algeria. Detonating the device ahead of schedule ensured that it would not fall into the hands of Challe and his associates.
Timeline small square Evian Agreement signed between France and Algeria - Algerian Independence France recognized its former colony's independence and agreed to turn over control of the Sahara in 5 years. By 1966 France would no longer be able to use it for testing, atmospheric or underground.
Timeline small square Decision made to move testing to Pacific Test Center in French Polynesia Actual detonation points set up at Mururoa, Temoe, Fangataufa, Maria, and Marutea. The new sites were extinct underwater volcanoes.
Timeline small square First atmospheric test in the Pacific
Timeline small square France tested first themo-nuclear weapon Result of China's pursuit of thermo-nuclear weapons, de Gaulle didn't want to be the last nuclear power to do so.
Timeline small square France's last atmospheric detonation
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French Nuclear Program