Since 1966, France has used the atoll of Moruroa as the place of 178 nuclear testings, both in the atmosphere and under sea level. Moruroa is located roughly in the middle of the South Pacific and consists of a coral atoll perched on the submerged tip of a 6000 meter-high underwater volcano which has been extinct for millions of years.
In 1960, France conducted its first test in the atmosphere in Algeria. France's nuclear testing program was shifted to Moruroa in 1966 following the closure of its Saharan experimental centre. This move was due to the granting of full independence to Algeria in 1962. The French decision to switch its atomic facilities from North Africa to the South Pacific is still widely criticized, as it was when it was first known, by members of the South Pacific, and in 1985, it led to almost all members of the region's Forum signing the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, better known as the Rarotonga Treaty.
The French claim Moruroa was not only chosen as the site of their nuclear testings because of the geological suitability of its basalt base but also for its isolation.
There is virtually no disapproval aired against test conducted by other main nuclear powers, such as the USA, the Soviet Union, Britain and China, however, France has, since moving its testing to the South Pacific, been singled out as a "troublemaker", especially for pursuing experiments when the US and Soviet Union are talking about reducing their arsenals. There appears to be a need for France to maintain a deterrent force, however, having been invaded and occupied three times in the past 120 years, so as to dissuade all potential aggressors. The French military argue that their nuclear weaponry has to be updated constantly to keep pace...