On two occasions during February dust from the Saharan has covered the French Alps and beyond. Blown North by Sirocco winds. The second, a cloud of fine particles has triggered pollution alerts and motorway speed restrictions. But the sand carrying something else, radioactive Cesium 137. A residue of French nuclear testing in the desert.
Samples collected in the Jura have been analyzed by a laboratory in the north of France responsible for radioactive controls and set-up after the Chernobyl disaster. The analysis was clear, traces of Cesium 137. An artificial radioactive element and a remnant of French nuclear tests some 2500km away in the Algerian desert during the 1960s. The element has a half life of 30 years, the tests are now 70 years ago, 2 cycles, after 7 cycles only 1% of the radioactive substances remain. According to the experts the radioactivity level is 80,000 becquerels per km2. As a comparison a limit of 1,000 becquerels per kg is set for lamb post Chernobyl. So not dangerous for human health. At least in France. In some parts of Southern Algeria the land is still heavily contaminated. Something local populations have to live with.
France started nuclear tests in the 1960s. At the time Algeria was a mere department of France. The first bomb had four times the power of Hiroshima. In total 17 underground and airborne tests were carried out until 1966. Following Algerian independence testing was moved to the Pacific and finally stopped in 1995 but not before French secret service agents had killed a photographer on a Greenpeace boat after planting a bomb.