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November 13, 1959
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Scientific Intelligence Report THE FRENCH NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM NOTICE The conclusions, judgments, and opinions contained in this finished intelligence report are based on extensive scientific intelligence research and represent the final and consid- ered views of the Office of Scientific Intelli- gence. CIA/SI 47-59 13 November 1959 CENTRAL  INTELLIGENCE AGENCY OFFICE OF SCIENTIFIC INTELLIGENCE CONTENTS Page PREFACE  . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . iii PROBLEM .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1 CONCLUSIONS       .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1 SUMMARY .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1 DISCUSSION .     .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   2 Introduction . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   2 Availability of Uranium .         .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   3 Plutonium Production .      .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   3 Plutonium Extraction .      .  .  .  .  .  .  .     .  .  .  .   4 Uranium Isotope Separation . .     .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   4 Weapons Research and Development .       .  .  .  .  .  .  .   6 Nuclear Weapons Testing .    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   6 REFERENCES   .    .  .       .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   9 TABLE Estimated French Plutonium Production at Marcoule .          .   5 v e tE I                       I THE FRENCH NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM PROBLEM To assess French capability to produce fissionable material and to develop, test, and produce nuclear weapons; and to esti- mate the likely timing of the first French nuclear weapons test. CONCLUSIONS 1. France began research and development activities in atomic energy that had applica- tion for nuclear weapons about 1954.              In 1958 France decided to complete the development and testing of a nuclear weapon and could test a nuclear weapon by November 1959. 2. France has sufficient uranium ore avail- able for its planned program and has in op- eration 3 reactors and a chemical separa- tion plant for the production of plutonium. France probably had 15 to 25 kilograms of plutonium suitable for weapons purposes by July 1959 and could increase the production of plutonium to 100 kilograms a year by late 1960 and to about 550 kilograms of plutonium a year by 1965. 3. A gaseous diffusion plant is being built at Pierrelatte and should enable the French to produce uranium enriched in U-235 to about 3 percent by 1962.  Uranium highly enriched in U-235 (suitable for weapons use) could be produced in small quantities by 1965. 4. The French nuclear weapons test site headquarters is located at Reggane in the Sahara Desert, and the test range is believed to be about 60 miles almost due south of Reggane.  The first test will probably be a 300-foot tower shot of an all-plutonium im- plosion weapon yielding about 20 kilotons. SUMMARY In 1952 after several years of basic research, the French introduced a 5-year plan for atom- ic energy development. The major aim of this plan was the establishment of a large pluto- nium production facility.   Such production indicates a general intention to develop nu- clear weapons, but weapons development did not receive public support and high priority until 1958.  Now the French apparently in- tend to conduct a test regardless of any East- West test ban agreement by the present nu- clear powers. R;Rgprhw               1                                       1 Construction work on the plutonium pro- duction center, begun in 1954 at Marcoule in the Rhone Valley near Avignon, was completed in mid-1958. The major facilities at Marcoule are three natural uranium, graphite mod- erated reactors and a chemical separation plant for the separation of plutonium from irradiated uranium.  The French probably had obtained about 15 to 25 kilograms of plu- tonium from these facilities by mid-1959. When in full operation, probably late in 1960, the Marcoule center will be able to produce approximately 100 kilograms of plutonium per year.  The production of plutonium could be increased to about 550 kilograms per year by 1965 upon completion of the announced nuclear power reactor program.  The present French nuclear weapons capability is limited to those weapons using plutonium as the basic fissionable material. In mid-1957 the French decided to incur the large expense of building their own gaseous diffusion plant for the production of enriched uranium.  A full scale gaseous diffusion plant is being erected at Pierrelatte, 15 miles south of Montelimar on the Rhone River.  Plans call for the plant to be in partial operation in 3 years and in full production in 4 years pro- ducing a product enriched in U-235 to about 3 percent.  Additional stages may be added to the plant later to secure a product of higher enrichment suitable for weapons purposes. Nuclear weapons research and development was carried on for several years before the French publicly announced their intentions to proceed with the actual fabrication and test- ing of nuclear weapons.  The French have ac- tively sought information and support in nu- clear weapons design and test instrumenta- tion from the United States and United King- dom but the support received has been limited largely to unclassified information and test equipment.  Therefore, the first French weap- ons will be the product of an almost com- pletely native effort. Little information is available on actual French nuclear weapons research and develop- ment, and the principal scientists involved have never been identified.  It is believed that the Department de  Techniques Nouvelles (DTN) of the French Commissariat a l'En- ergie Atomique (CEA) has responsibility for the overall development of nuclear weapons. The centers at Bruyere-le-Chatel, Vaujours, Saclay, and Paris (Fort d'Issy) may be doing research and development on the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons under or for the DTN.  The French have had sufficient time to develop or acquire the non-nuclear components for these weapons.  Because only small quantities of plutonium are available at the present time, it is likely that the first nuclear weapon to be tested by the French will be an implosion type. The weapons tests have been delayed by a combination of technical difficulties in ac- quiring fissionable material.  Although the chemical separation plant was completed in July 1958, it did not reach production scale operations until about January 1959, and weapons grade plutonium did not become available until the summer of 1959. DISCUSSION INTRODUCTION From the beginning of the French nuclear energy program in October 1948 until about 1955, the French government and the majority of the French people were strongly opposed to the development of nuclear weapons by France.  Nevertheless, since 1952  (the be- ginning of the first 5-year plan for nuclear energy), rapid development of nuclear re- search has taken place in France, and certain sections of the military have claimed since 1954 that the French need a nuclear bomb for adequate defense.  Some preliminary weap- ons research may have been started in 1954. By 1956 France had the economic and tech- nological capability to proceed with the de- velopment of nuclear weapons .12  Apparently the decision to proceed with the manufacture of nuclear weapons came after the humiliating Anglo-French withdrawal from Suez in No- vember 1956.  Since General de Gaulle came to power in June 1958, his determination to in- crease French stature and independence in NATO and the increased feeling among mili- tary and government officials of a need for a native nuclear deterrent to protect vital French interests have made it highly probable that France will proceed with the manufac- ture and testing of nuclear weapons regard- less of any East-West test ban agreed upon by the present nuclear powers. AVAILABILITY OF URANIUM France obtains most of its uranium from domestic sources, although small quantities are imported from Madagascar, a French possession.  Major uranium deposits are lo- cated at La Crousille near Lemoges, Vendee in Brittany, Grury in Saone et Loire, Fores, and possibly at Lachaux, southeast of Vichy. Extensive exploration for new deposits is car- ried out throughout France, Algeria, Mada- gascar, and French West Africa.  French proven reserves of uranium oxide amount to 10,000 tons with possible unproven reserves of from 50,000 to 100,000 tons. Present French production of uranium oxide amounts to 600 to 700 tons per year with a planned production of 1,000 tons by 1961, 2,500 tons by 1970, and 3,000 tons by 1975. Thus, France should be capable of meeting the uranium requirements of its planned reactor program from native sources. PLUTONIUM PRODUCTION The first French research reactor (Zoe) be- gan operation at Chatillon in late 1948. Basic research on the extraction of plutonium from uranium was undertaken concurrently, and by 1950 the first milligrams of plutonium in the form of a purified salt had been obtained. it was decided to construct a pilot plant aa Chatillon for the extraction of plu- tonium from irradiated uranium.3  The pilot plant was completed in early 1954 by the St. Gobain Chemical Company  (Manufactures des Glaces et Produits Chimiques de St. Go- bain).  This pilot facility is a solvent extrac- tion plant using mixer-settlers, and by Janu- ary 1955 about one gram of plutonium had been extracted from the uranium rods taken from the Zoe reactor.4 Apparently the decision was made about 1952 to follow the "plutonium path" and ac- quire plutonium in quantities sufficient for weapons, since the 5-Year Plan called for the establishment of a large plutonium produc- tion center.  Preliminary studies were made, and actual construction of the plutonium production facility was begun in 1954 at Marcoule, in the Rhone Valley near Avignon. The major facilities at Marcoule include three natural uranium, graphite moderated, gas- cooled reactors and a chemical separation plant.  The reactors are designed primarily to produce plutonium, with electric power be- ing a by-product. The first of these plutonium producing re- actors, G-1, went into operation on 7 Janu- ary 1956.  It has a designed power level of 40 thermal megawatts and is generally similar to the U.S. Brookhaven pile.  Since Septem- ber 1956 the reactor has been running at only about 35 thermal megawatts because of dif- ficulties encountered from fuel element rup- ture.5  The annual production of plutonium by the G-1 reactor was expected to be about 15 kilograms, but because it is operating at reduced power levels, it is not expected that this production rate will be achieved.  The first set of fuel rods were irradiated in G-1 during 1956-57 and removed in December 1957.8  An experimental power generator was installed at G-1 by Electricitie de France for the production of electricity.  The generator has a maximum installed power of about 5 electrical megawatts, and it first produced electricity in the fall of 1956. spa           1                            3 The second and third reactors at Marcoule, G-2 and G-3, are of identical design.  They are natural uranium reactors, using graphite as a moderator, and are cooled by pressurized carbon dioxide.  G-2 went into operation on 21 July 1958 and by April 1959 had attained a power level sufficient to produce 9 mega- watts of by-product electricity.  At full scale operation, it will have a power level of about 150 thermal megawatts, permitting the pro- duction of about 40 kilograms of plutonium per year and 25 to 30 megawatts of by-product electricity.  G-3 went into operation in June 1959, and it is expected that the power level will be increased progressively until it is in full scale operation sometime in 1960.  When the three reactors at Marcoule are in full op- eration, the annual plutonium output will probably be about 100 kilograms.  In addi- tion, some 65 megawatts of electricity will be generated.  The accompanying table shows the estimated plutonium production capacity of the French reactors at Marcoule. The first French nuclear power station is under construction at Avoine, just north of Chinon.  It is scheduled to start operating in 1960.  This reactor, called EDF-1, is a graph- ite moderated, gas-cooled reactor and will have an estimated electrical output of 60 megawatts.  Construction of additional power reactors is planned, and current goals call for 850 MW of installed capacity by 1965. All of the nuclear power reactors will produce significant quantities of plutonium as a by- product.  Upon completion of the announced nuclear power program, French reactor facil- ities should have the capacity to produce about 550 kilograms of plutonium per year. PLUTONIUM EXTRACTION Construction work on the Chemical Separa- tion Plant at Marcoule was begun in 1955, and the plant was inaugurated in July 1958 by General de Gaulle.  It is a Purex-type solvent extraction plant for plutonium and uranium recovery.  The overall process em- ploys mixer-settlers and utilizes tributyl phos- phate as the solvent and nitric acid as the salting agent.  The plutonium product is an oxalate salt that is converted to metal at an 4                                        _-99C9= adjacent plutonium metal reduction facility. In spite of earlier pilot plant work at Chatil- lon, considerable delay apparently was en- countered in getting the separation plant into operation.  The nature of the troubles is un- known, Kilogram quantities of plutonium probably did not become available for weapons develop- ment purposes until the summer of 1959. URANIUM ISOTOPE SEPARATION As the French nuclear program developed, it became clear that the possession of U-235 was essential.  Research on isotope separa- tion was initiated at Saclay by 1955, and in 1957 the first of two pilot plant facilities was begun.  The first Saclay pilot plant was a 12-stage installation used to test gaseous dif- fusion barriers.                                                                          Barriers could be tested in both tubular and flat shapes.  The second plant at Saclay was larger and contained 16-stages of prototype cells of a type planned for the first full-scale plant.8 In 1957 the CEA also secured an appropria- tion of 25 billion francs ($71,350,000) * for initial construction work on a full scale gase- ous diffusion plant.  France attempted to in- terest the -EURATOM partners in joint con- struction of this full scale gaseous diffusion plant.  Only the Italians showed interest; they are reported to have offered tentatively about $20 million toward the project.  Fi- nally, France decided in 1958 to incur the expense of building its own plant.  Ground was broken for this facility in the fall of 1958 at Pierrelatte, 15 miles south of Montelimar, between two hydroelectric dams on the Rhone River.  The total cost of the installation is to be around 55 billion francs ($156,970,000).9 Plans call for the plant to be in partial op- eration in 3 years and to be in full production in 4 years.  The plant is expected to treat about 350 tons of natural uranium per year, producing 500 to 700 kilograms of product enriched in U-235 to about 3 percent.  This product will be suitable for increasing the efficiency of French reactors but not suffi- ~IwOCw M-4--1M ~I eM OO O  M.Oiti m M -IeMOOer O  MOOM ~IWOOd~ N  MHNM O  M-4+O-~M 1-4 ,C))I11OOw M IO CV ti 201-s I`" C)  MO   M CIO aWW CD CD d CO O H H O'LO o0 -4'OW v O co O IL) O O CO O CO O O O O co tide  4 O M O O tf) O co O CC) r-4 'l ?wLO ?o ti OO       IO00 H .-1    N M -4 Ul) OO C -1 O O O O O N H el d~0C) O O O O N .-4V  IOC) ti m O O O O N -dWd4OCC) O O O O N .-p er .-4 N O 0U13  I ON 4-4   "M N  I IrN IIIII I  I  I I  I U C) d GL O O Cd 0) U ~ yy 44 O w 0 0 0 CD ..~i 0 0 0 O 0  O   Cd 41 aCd 944 0  H A bo A, 0 O o OD 4a cd m Cd !4  ? C42     U d     M M     - ca LO Cd BEM m (D ca -4 H p  N  U F Id, 4)    cd  to 0 U k cQ     U U 0 (L) OD w -~ 4 E 0 . 00 O O C) 'd ' ' . d N M M H H 4cicc to ciently enriched for weapons.  Plans are be- ing considered, but no decision has been made as yet, for building additional stages to secure a product of higher enrichment suitable for weapons purposes.  Papers presented by the French at the Second U.N. Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, Geneva, 1958, and reports by U.S. scientists who have visited the Saclay pilot plant indicate that the de- velopment work on gaseous diffusion has been very sound.  Three types of barrier (alumina, nickel, and teflon) have been developed by the French, but it is not known which of these will be used in their full-scale plant. WEAPONS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Nuclear weapons research has been carried on in France for the past 4 to 5 years.'? Officially, the DTN is organizationally Subordinate to the French Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA) and has the responsibility for the develop- ment of nuclear weapons, yet it appears in fact to be a joint CEA-National Defense or- ganization with policy direction given by a special nuclear committee within the French Government. The following organizations are probably doing research and development on nuclear weapons under or for the DTN. a. Research Center of Bruyere-le-Chatel (Centre d'Etudes de Bruyere-le-Chatel), lo- cated  near  Arpajon  (Seine-et-Oise),  was created in 1955 and is directed by Mr. (fnu) Laurent.11  It has been reported that this center does theoretical and applied studies of the critical mass of nuclear explosions and prepares models of weapons.12 b. Armament Research and Manufactur- ing Directorate (Direction des Etudes et Fab- rications d'Armament), DEFA, is a French Army organization which in collaboration with the Powder Service (Services de Poudres) is reported to have done research and develop- ment of detonators.1314  The electronic lab- oratories of DEFA are located at Fort d'Issy, 6                                 SLgg,E.T and the headquarters of the chemical section of DEFA are located at St. Cloud.  The DEFA also has an atomic section, which is headed by Professor Paul Chanson, reported to be one of the guiding lights for the construction of an atomic bomb.15 c. Nuclear Research Center at Saclay is reported to conduct theoretical studies on critical masses and studies of neutron reflec- tors.12  Saclay is the largest research center in the French nuclear program. d. Research Center at Vaujours (Centre d'Etudes a Vaujours), is located at the mili- tary fort of Vaujours, east of Paris, and is directed by Engineer-in-Chief Bar uillet.11 It began to function in 1956 NUCLEAR WEAPONS TESTING After assuming power in 1958, General de Gaulle made it known that he was anxious for France to conduct a nuclear test as soon as possible, 17 but technical difficulties ap- parently caused significant delays in the ac- quisition of plutonium suitable for weapons purposes.  These difficulties were largely with chemical separation and "dirty plutonium." * oug  ffiearcou a chemical separation plant was completed in July, 1958, it did not start production scale operation until January 1959 because of unidentified op- erational difficulties.                                                                        This time scale indi- cates that there would not be sufficient plu- tonium for weapons fabrication before mid- 1959. Because of the limited quantities of pluto- nium metal available to the French, their first nuclear weapon probably will be of the implosion type.  The French nuclear weap- * "Dirty plutonium" is that considered less suit- able for weapons purposes either because of residual contaminants left by the chemical separation proc- ess or the presence of too high a percentage of Pu-240 (as opposed to Pu-239). ons capability will be limited to weapons using plutonium, unless they are provided with fully enriched U-235 by the United States or United Kingdom or decide to enlarge the isotope separation plant presently under con- struction (now scheduled to produce only slightly enriched uranium).  They probably could not have the capability for producing highly enriched U-235 before 1965.  Highly enriched U-235 would be necessary to develop composite weapons, including the more ad- vanced types. The French could conduct a nuclear test by November 1959,1 me r-rencn test will probably be a 300-root tower shot yielding about 20 kilo- tons.19                 Possibly more than one test will be conducted. The French probably desire to make their first test as sophisticated as possible in order to meet the legal requirements for securing an exchange of weapons information from the United States. Reggane in the Sahara (26?42'N; 01?10'E) is the headquarters for French test opera- tions.21                                                                 A new interservice test center was scheduled for completion near Reggane in the fall of 1958.22 The commander of this center was to be a French Air Force colonel, whose superior was Army Brigadier General Charles Ailleret, Chief of Special Arms of the French Armed Forces.  An airstrip constructed at Reggane and a major airfield at Aoulef, some 50 miles northnortheast, make the airlift of supplies and personnel feasible.  The test range is believed to be 60 miles almost due south of Reggane in a remote part of the Sahara.