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A Citroën 2cv transporting the heart of the nuclear bomb in the Algerian Sahara

During the "generals' putsch" in French Algeria in April 1961, there was a nuclear bomb in Algiers, intended for a nuclear test.

The staff of the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) no longer having confidence in the military; when at the beginning of the afternoon of the 24th the firing was fixed for the following morning, Jean Viard (director of the technical team) asked, out of caution, one of his civil engineers to discreetly load the R1 machine (the bomb which was to release an estimated power of 6 and 18 kilotons) in his 2CV (contrary to the usual practice of having the nuclear device transported by troops in a military truck) the core of fissile material (i.e. a good ten kilos of plutonium in a container). The purpose of this discretion is not to leave all the elements of the bomb to the soldiers before firing. The transport then took place in the middle of the night, from the Reggane facilities to the tower in Hamoudia, about fifty kilometers.

On April 25, 1961, while the putsch was failing, technicians decided to proceed with the firing, despite the bad weather conditions, which could call into question the expected scientific results. According to Yves Rocard: “We took no elementary precautions of a meteorological nature, nor simply of such a nature as to ensure the success of the measurements. This is to rid the site of any atomic bomb and get the rebellion less interested in it. »

This experiment, known as the "Gerboise verte" (is the 4th French nuclear test, after Gerboise bleue, Gerboise blanche and Gerboise rouge.), was also an opportunity to test the reaction of soldiers in conditions of nuclear war.

To read on the subject the book "The President and the Bomb" by Jean Guisnel and Bruno Tertrais.


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