Nuclear test in North Africa 61 years ago Unusual radiation blown back to France with sand

The sun rises as cars drive through dust from the Sahara desert in the Danish coastal town of Cog, February 23, 2021.

Dust from Africa’s Sahara Desert, blown by strong monsoons, invades Western Europe northward across the Mediterranean, bringing stunning skies and sunsets in France, as well as unusual levels of radiation. It is generally believed that the radiation is not dangerous to human health, but ironically, the radiation came from the nuclear tests carried out by France in North Africa in the early 1960s.

The Central News Agency reported that the Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO), a non-governmental organization located near the city of Cannes (Caen) in western France, specializes in monitoring radiation levels. ACRO said France conducted a nuclear test code-named “Gerboise Bleue” in the Algerian desert on Feb. 13, 1960, when the North African country was a French overseas territory and only became independent in 1962.

In this photo, French President Charles de Gaulle presents the Order of Merit to soldiers and physicists involved in the development of France’s first atomic bomb in Paris on March 10, 1960, during the “Gerboise Bleue” nuclear test at Reggane in the Algerian desert on Feb. 13, 1960.

ACRO says this “boomerang effect” brought caesium-137, a fission product from the nuclear explosion, back to the French mainland.

ACRO recently collected Saharan dust in the Jura mountains on the border between France and Switzerland and examined it and found that “considering the homogeneous deposits over a wide area, the analysis estimated 80,000 becquerels (bq) of caesium-137 per square kilometer.

ACRO added: “This wave of radioactive contamination, which came as far as 60 years after the nuclear explosion, reminds us of the long-term radioactive contamination of the Sahara desert, for which France is responsible.”

Western Europe is currently being hit by a new wave of Saharan dust, with at least three waves already this season. A thick cloud has crossed the Mediterranean, covering parts of Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and other areas, and “mud rain” is expected to fall.

Dust from the Sahara desert falls on snow in Kurica, Finland, Feb. 25, 2021.

In Europe, the people who know the most about the Sahara dust are the scientists on the Canary Islands. This group of small islands is located in the Atlantic Ocean west of the African continent and belongs to Spain.

Pedro Salazar Carballo, a professor at the University of Laguna in Tenerife, said in an interview with Euronews in his laboratory, “The dust of the Sahara desert occasionally contains potassium-40 (potassium-40), which is naturally present in minerals. naturally occurring potassium-40 (potassium-40) and also cesium-137 from nuclear tests conducted by the French government.”

In February 2020, strong Saharan desert winds laced with sand and dust blew from Africa to the Canary Islands, forcing the closure of airports and stranding hundreds of tourists on the islands. Salazakawayu’s lab recently published a study on the radioactive content of this wave of dust, when high levels of potassium-40 and cesium-137 were found.

Salazar Cabayo insists that this level is still safe and that the lab continues to monitor the levels and report them to Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council.

He said, in fact, the most exposed people to radiation is radon, which is naturally emitted by the soil itself. It is estimated that 5% to 14% of lung cancer cases are caused by human inhalation of radon gas, especially in underground and confined spaces.