Disarmament champion

In a televised interview, President Jacques Chirac announced that France is now "able to reduce its nuclear arsenal." To fulfill this objective, Chirac took the bold initiative of closing "immediately" a nuclear plant at Pierrelatte, south of Lyon. It is the only one in France producing plutonium and weapons-grade enriched uranium. Thus, three weeks after announcing the definite end to all nuclear testing, Chirac drove the point home and decided that France will no longer produce fissile material. Negotiations launched by the United Nations last May aimed at fixing a worldwide cut- off date for the production of fissile materials have made no progress. France gives the example as the first country among the 180 which signed the nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (see NFF 95.10) to make such a decision. The treaty calls for an end to nuclear testing, a halting of the production of fissile material and a reduction of nuclear stockpiles. In line with the end of nuclear testing, Chirac announced the closing of the test site in French Polynesia.

The ground-based part of France's deterrent will also disappear as the 18 land-based nuclear missiles in silos on the southern plateau d'Albion will be scrapped. France will therefore rely on four new missile-firing submarines and on aircraft to carry its nuclear deterrent, "a more modern and less costly" organization.

Following the same logic and in a gesture designed to reassure Germany, Chirac also decided, after talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, to dismantle the 30 remaining short-range Hades missiles. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the mobile missiles no longer served any real purpose and "worried the Germans very much," Chirac added.