Irony as Saharan dust returns radiation from French nuclear tests in the 1960s
By Rafael Cereceda • Updated: 01/03/2021
A view of Lyon, France, taken on February 6, 2021, as dust from the Saharan coloured the sky red. - Copyright Gautier Devoucoux
Dust from the Sahara Desert blown north by strong seasonal winds to France did not only bring stunning light and sunsets - it also carried abnormal levels of radiation.
That's according to French NGO Acro (Association for Control of Radioactivity in the West), which monitors levels of radiation.
The radiation is not considered dangerous for human health but it did arrive in France with a big dollop of irony.
Acro said it comes from nuclear tests carried out by France in the Algerian desert at the beginning of the 1960s, when the North African country was a French overseas territory.
It claims a “boomerang” effect has brought back caesium-137, a product of nuclear fission created in nuclear explosions.
Acro said it did tests on recent Saharan dust that it collected in the area of Jura, near the French border with Switzerland.
“Considering homogeneous deposits in a wide area, based on this analytical result, Acro estimates there was 80,000 bq per km2 of caesium-137,” it said in a statement.
"This radioactive contamination, which comes from far away, 60 years after the nuclear explosions, reminds us of the perennial radioactive contamination in the Sahara, for which France is responsible,” it added.