France’s Nuclear Victims (and Correct Number of Weapons)

From Tanguy et Laverdure, Menace sur Mururoa, 1996.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The news media reports that the French government has decided to “pay compensation to those suffering illnesses linked to┬áradiation” from the French nuclear tests conducted in Northern Africa and the South Pacific between 1960 and 1996. This being the same state that for decades denied any health effects from the tests.

Many of the news reports quote FAS estimating the French nuclear arsenal at 348 warheads in 2008. For the record, our latest estimate made in July 2008 is about 300 warheads.

Additional Resources: French Nuclear Forces 2008 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 2008) | Status of World Nuclear Forces (FAS web site)

U.S. Strategic Submarine Patrols Continue at Near Cold War Tempo

U.S. ballistic missile submarines conducted 31 nuclear deterrent patrols in 2008 at an operational tempo comparable to that of the Cold War.

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated]

The U.S. fleet of 14 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines conducted 31 nuclear deterrent patrols in 2008 at an operational tempo comparable to during the Cold War.

The new patrol information, which was obtained from the U.S. Navy under the Freedom of Information Act, coincides with the completion on February 11, 2009, of the 1,000th deterrent patrol by an Ohio-class submarine since 1982.

The information shows that the United States conducts more nuclear deterrent patrols each year than Russia, France, United Kingdom and China combined. Continue reading

French Nuclear Forces

Sarkozy says he wants to be more open about France’s nuclear arsenal “than anyone ever has been” about theirs. OK, does the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle still carry nuclear weapons in peacetime?

By Hans M. Kristensen

The French nuclear weapons arsenal currently includes approximately 300 warheads, according to our latest estimate published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Roughly 80 percent of the warheads are for delivery by three ballistic missiles submarines. The remaining warheads are on cruise missiles for delivery by land- and sea-based strike aircraft. The total arsenal is expected to decrease further to some 290 warheads in the next few years.

Although President Nicolas Sarkozy declared in March 2008 that he had “decided that France could and should be more transparent with respect to its nuclear arsenal than anyone ever has been,” France remains the only European nuclear weapons state that has not yet declared whether its aircraft carrier still carries nuclear weapons under normal circumstances.

Background: French Nuclear Forces 2008