→Legacy of contamination
France tested its first nuclear bomb in the Tanezrouft area, a portion of the Sahara that straddles Algeria and Mali, some 30 miles south of Reggane, on Feb. 13, 1960. Named Gerboise Bleue (“blue jerboa”) after the left hue of the tricolor French flag and a small rodent living in the Sahara, it had a blast capacity of 70 kilotons — or more than four times the strength of Little Boy, the U.S. bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
In a two years, the French tested four bombs aboveground in Tanezrouft. But even after Algeria’s independence from France in 1962, at the end of an eight-year revolutionary war that left hundreds of thousands dead, the French maintained a military presence in the region and tested 13 nuclear bombs underground, in a facility beneath the Hoggar mountains, 400 miles southeast of Reggane.
The bomb was sent down on Reggane city full of population