Protests mount as France conducts second nuke test

By Jim Genova, People's Weekly World, 7 October 1995

On Oct. 1 France conducted the second of eight planned nuclear tests in Polynesia, despite continued and increasing international protests against the tests. The latest test was estimated at about 100 kilotons—more than five times the size of the first test Sept. 5. Seismologists in New Zealand said the blast produced a shock wave equal to a 5.9 magnitude earthquake.

Just prior to the blast, the French navy seized a Greenpeace sail boat in international waters to prevent any disruption of the test. It was the third Greenpeace boat seized by the French since the tests began.

The tests have provoked international protests, largely spearheaded by the labor movement and Greenpeace. In Norway, workers staged a five-minute general strike in protest against French and Chinese nuclear tests.

In Australia and New Zealand workers are refusing to provide services to or honor contracts with any companies that have business with the French government. Workers have refused to provide services or perform work for the French consulates and embassies in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian government has recalled its ambassador from France in protest and opposition forces have called for a full break in diplomatic relations with France.

In Tahiti, pro-independence forces announced that there would be no mass protests in the wake of the second test because of fears that violence would erupt similar to that which left the island devastated after the first test. Instead, the independence parties will concentrate on campaigning for the march elections and putting enough political pressure on French President Jacques Chirac to stop the tests and negotiate independence for French- controlled Polynesia.

Chirac has said that the tests are necessary to guarantee the safety of France's nuclear arsenal. Despite the condemnation and increasing isolation of France in the world, Chirac said France will conduct all eight tests by May 1996 and then will sign a nuclear test ban treaty currently being negotiated among the world's nuclear powers.

Greenpeace charged that the real intention of the blasts was to test new nuclear weapons before time runs out with the signing of the test ban treaty. France now has a brand-new warhead for a brand-new weapons system, sabotaging global moves toward a nuclear free world, Lynette Thorstensen, Greenpeace spokeswoman in Papeete, Tahiti, said in the wake of the second blast.

France may feel comfortable in its decision to persist with the tests because of U.S. soft-peddling of the issue. U.S. President Bill Clinton's spokesman Mike McCurry said the president had expressed strong regret about the testing, but stopped short of condemning it as other governments have done.