On This Day — France Becomes 5th Thermo-Nuclear Power [Canopus Test] (August 24 1968) [UPDATE — France deliberately underestimated environmental impact of nuclear tests in Polynesia]

“You can’t erase 60 years of state propaganda, denial, intimidation, contempt and arrogance with a wave of the hand.”

Polynesian President Edouard Fritch (July 2021)

August 24 2020 — Canopus (also known as “Opération Canopus” in French) was the code name for France’s first two-stage thermonuclear test, conducted on August 24, 1968, at Fangataufa atoll. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“There is a particular clause in the heritage code which specifies that everything relating to nuclear power is incommunicable.”

Historian Renaud Meltz

UPDATE (August 24 2021) — An investigation by independent journalists and researchers found that France hid the devastating impacts of its nuclear tests during the 1960s and 1970s.

France carried out 193 nuclear tests between 1960 and 1996, mostly on the atolls of Fangataufa and Mururoa. 

By studying the so-called “Mururoa Files” and interviewing dozens of people in both France and French Polynesia, the team reconstructed the radiation effects of three major nuclear tests: Aldébaran in 1966, Encelade in 1971, and Centaure in 1974.

They concluded that that France had underestimated the impact of the tests. Actual radiation levels were up to 10 times higher than those estimated by France’s Atomic Energy Commission in 2006.


“Canopus was also France’s highest yielding test. With a 2.6 megaton yield, its explosive power was 200 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. The device weighed three tons and was suspended from a balloon at 520 metres. The fallout caused by this test contaminated large parts of Fangataufa atoll, leaving it off-limits for humans for six years, also affecting neighbouring atolls.”


The test made France the fifth country to test a thermonuclear device after the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and China.

Fangataufa was selected as the location of the shot due to its isolation in respect to the main base on Mururoa. The device was suspended from a large hydrogen filled balloon.

It was detonated at 18:30:00.5 GMT with a 2.6 megaton yield at an altitude of 1800 feet.

Michel Carayol — The Father of the French H-Bomb

Michel Carayol was born in 1934 and died in 2003. His father was an industrialist and his mother a teacher.

He entered Ecole Polytechnique in 1954, graduated in 1956, and joined the Armament. In 1962, he was part of the DEFA assigned to CEA-DAM at Limeil.

Michel Carayol (June 30 1934 Alger– February 23 2003 Paris)

In 1967, Carayol was part of the advanced studies branch.

Carayol was involved in the small group established to discuss ways to design a configuration in which the Li6D would be initially compressed using the energy from a first, separated fission stage.

Very soon Carayol tried a simulation of a new type of thermonuclear stage using a spherical geometry, the most efficient design for an inward crush.

This system included a substantial quantity of Li6D.

The originality of the scheme was its thick external layer, made out of a metal of intermediate atomic number, moderately transparent and moderately opaque vis-à-vis the photonic rays coming from the fission stage when the chain reaction was ending.

In Popular Culture — Godzilla

The 1998 film Godzilla uses this particular test as the basis for the origin of the titular monster, a marine iguana mutated by the fallout from the blast while still in its egg.

French Nuclear Test – Canopus


Canopus (nuclear test) — Wikipedia


Pierre Billaud & Venance Journé


On This Day — France becomes 5th Thermonuclear Power [Canopus Test] (August 24 1968)

On This Day — France Becomes 5th Thermo-Nuclear Power [Canopus Test] (August 24 1968) [2019]

On This Day — France Becomes 5th Thermo-Nuclear Power [Canopus Test] (August 24 1968) [2020]

On This Day — France Becomes 5th Thermo-Nuclear Power [Canopus Test] (August 24 1968) [UPDATE — France deliberately underestimated environmental impact of nuclear tests in Polynesia]

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