France's Nuclear Weapons Program

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In History
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Allier returned to Norway to secure more heavy water for France

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • France's Second Plant - Laboratory Scale Extraction Facility

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • G-1 Plutonium Reactor at Marcoule went critical

    Reached full power in September of that year.
  • Suez Crisis

    Reinforced France's desire for nuclear weapons
  • 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
  • Moratorium on Atmospheric Testing Begins


    Plutonium device on a 344-ft tower detonated
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • First atmospheric test in the Pacific

  • 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.
  • France's last atmospheric detonation

  • Period: to

    French Nuclear Program