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Nuclear Last updated: June, 2014

France's involvement in the development of nuclear energy dates back to the years immediately prior to WWII, when the so-called "Paris Group" was instrumental in sustaining a chain reaction through the use of a moderator. The Paris Group - comprised of four scientists at the College de France in Paris - showed that when fission occurs in a uranium nucleus two or three neutrons are released, creating the possibility for a chain reaction. However, it was not until the 1950s that France embarked on a nuclear weapons program; its first successful nuclear test was carried out in the Sahara Desert of Algeria in 1960. The rationale for France developing its own nuclear weapons program has been largely attributed to reasons of security and prestige.

France's involvement in the development of nuclear energy dates back to the years immediately prior to WWII, when the so-called "Paris Group" was instrumental in sustaining a chain reaction through the use of a moderator. The Paris Group - comprised of four scientists at the College de France in Paris - showed that when fission occurs in a uranium nucleus two or three neutrons are released, creating the possibility for a chain reaction. However, it was not until the 1950s that France embarked on a nuclear weapons program; its first successful nuclear test was carried out in the Sahara Desert of Algeria in 1960. The rationale for France developing its own nuclear weapons program has been largely attributed to reasons of security and prestige.

Current Force Configuration

France's nuclear force today includes both air- and sea-based components that are maintained at a level of "strict sufficiency" in the strategic context. [1] Its sea-based deterrent comprises four Le Triomphant-class nuclear submarines fitted with 16 M45 or M51 domestically-manufactured submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that carry up to six warheads. [2] The third and fourth vessels in this class have recently been fitted with the M51 SLBM. The newest submarine in the French fleet, Le Terrible, entered into service in September 2010. [3] By 2015, all will be equipped with the M51.1 missile that carries the TN75 warhead, and France will begin updating to the M51.2 missiles that carries the TNO warhead. [4] The strategic submarine fleet is based on France's Atlantic coast at Ile Longue, Bretagne, and is configured to the minimum level required to maintain a continuous-at-sea presence. [5]

France's air-based deterrent includes four air squadrons at four separate bases. The land-based squadrons - located at Avord, Istres, and Saint-Dizier - comprise 20 Mirage aircraft that carry the ASMP-A short-range attack missile. [6] France claims that it requires an air-based leg - in addition to its strategic submarine fleet - to maintain a "credible" nuclear deterrent. [7] Critics compare this to the United Kingdom's switch to a monad after the Cold War, but France contends that because the M45 and M51 are less accurate than the British D-5 missile, it maintains a more flexible deterrent given its only "modest capability." [8]

Modernization

France is currently updating both its sea and air-based nuclear forces pursuant to a new Military Programming Law passed in December 2013. [9] After finishing updates to the Triomphant-class nuclear submarines that fitted two of the four SSBNs with the new longer-range M51, which carries the same TN75 warhead as the M45, France plans to have six new Barracuda-class SSBNs in service by 2020. [10] By 2015, the M51 SLBM will be armed with the new TNO nuclear warhead, which will replace all older warheads. [11]

Paris is also in the process of replacing its Mirage 2000N and Super-Etendard aircraft with the new Rafale F3 fighter jet. [12] The ASMP air-to-ground missile, which had been carried by French fighter-bomber aircraft since 1986, has been replaced by the improved ASMP Amélioré (ASMP-A). The ASMP-A missile has an increased range of 300 km, and is fitted with the new TNA warhead, which has a maximum yield of 300 kilotons. [13] Both the new TNO and TNA warheads were tested in France's final round of nuclear testing in September 1996. France aims to integrate the ASMP-A on new Rafale jets by 2018. [14]

To ensure the safety and viability of their nuclear weapons stockpiles while adhering to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, France and the UK signed a bilateral agreement in November 2010 that will allow for cooperation in this area. [15] Joint activities will involve the construction of a simulation facility in Valduc, France, where scientists from both countries will conduct work on the safety and security of their respective nations' warheads. A joint Technology Development Center will also be established in Aldermaston, UK, to develop simulation technology for the center at Valduc. It is estimated that the Valduc facility will become operational around 2014 with construction costs to be split equally between France and the United Kingdom. [16]

Force Posture and Doctrine

France's nuclear weapons doctrine is based on the policy of dissuasion (an equivalent of deterrence), which states that an attack on France's vital interests would bring about a nuclear response in the form of unacceptable damage. [17] This basic policy was reiterated by the 2008 and 2013 White Papers on National Defense and Security (le Livre blanc), as well as speeches made by Presidents Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande. [18] Exactly what constitutes France's national interest is somewhat ambiguous, but analysts generally describe it as including the free exercise of sovereignty, national territorial integrity, and the integrity of its overseas territories. [19] Nevertheless, France maintains a degree of calculated ambiguity regarding its vital interests.

There is also a question over whether France would employ nuclear weapons in response to state-sponsored chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear terrorism. In a 2006 speech President Chirac stated that "leaders of states resorting to terrorist means against us, as those who might consider, one way or the other, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they risk a firm and adapted response from us. And this response can be of a conventional nature. It can also be of another nature." [20] Experts point out, however, that France's nuclear weapons likely only serve a deterrent purpose against state actors. [21]

Arms Reductions

In 1996, President Jacques Chirac introduced a number of reforms to France's nuclear forces, including scaling back the strategic submarine fleet from five vessels to four (in 1991 France reduced its fleet of Le Redoutable-class SSBNs from six boats to five after the lead vessel, Le Redoutable, was decommissioned), withdrawing aging Mirage IVP bombers from service, and dismantling the Plateau d'Albion land-based ballistic missile site. The decision to disband Plateau d'Albion is significant as France became the only state to have designed, developed and dismantled its land-based nuclear missiles. During a speech delivered in March 2008 in Cherbourg at the launching of the fourth vessel of France's new SSBN fleet, Le Terrible, then President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the "number of nuclear weapons, missiles and aircraft will be reduced by one-third." [22] As a result of this reduction, the country would have no more than 300 nuclear warheads in total. This declaration of total (as opposed to operational) warheads represents a high-level of French transparency with regards to its nuclear weapons arsenal. However, France's commitment to retaining its nuclear deterrent remains strong and the new administration has no plans for further reductions.

Disarmament

Historically, France has adopted a conservative approach towards nuclear disarmament with its leaders avoiding public statements on the issue. This can be seen today in the more cautious approach taken by French officials in comparison to their British and American counterparts. [23] Such conservatism can be explained by the strong link that exists between the possession of nuclear weapons and feelings of national independence, something that is reflected in a general public that is relatively pro-nuclear. While French opinion polls on this subject are rare, one conducted by the French Ministry of Defense in 2006 found that 61 percent of the population believes France requires nuclear weapons in order to defend herself. [24]

As a result, French politicians have been less forthcoming in emphasizing the country's willingness to join nuclear disarmament negotiations at the appropriate time. This is partly due to them being unconvinced that disarmament will result in increased security. Although President Sarkozy's Cherbourg speech did address the disarmament subject directly, something that marks a subtle change in French policy, it also urged caution and reinforced the message that France will continue to maintain its nuclear weapons at a level of "strict sufficiency." [25] The Ministry of Defense continues to highlight its Nuclear Transparency and Security Law, a law that guarantees a commitment to nuclear security through the maintenance of a nuclear weapons arsenal. [26]

While it is true that this is not significantly different from the British policy of "minimum deterrence," the emphasis that Paris places on maintenance as opposed to willingness to engage, continues to create some ambiguity over France's position. Nevertheless, France has set out some practical steps towards disarmament that were alluded to in both Sarkozy's Cherbourg speech and a letter that was sent by France to the UN Secretary General under its six month presidency of the European Union in 2008. These steps include the universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the transparent dismantlement of all nuclear testing facilities, and a moratorium on the production of fissile material.

An important part of France's approach to nuclear disarmament is that it emphasizes the "multidimensional character" of Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and consistently links both nuclear and conventional disarmament. [27] This linkage was referred to in the Cherbourg speech as President Sarkozy stated that the agenda he laid out was an attempt to place us "on the path towards nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament." [28] This position was also re-emphasized in Sarkozy's 2008 letter to Ban Ki-moon. [29]

Paris deserves recognition for the arms reductions it has made (outlined above), as well as the transparent manner in which it has dismantled fissile material production facilities at Marcoule and Pierrelatte. In an unprecedented move in September 2008, French authorities organized a tour of these facilities for member state representatives to the Conference on Disarmament. This policy demonstrates both France's commitment to its 1996 decision to cease producing fissile materials for nuclear weapons, and its support for a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. [30]

Civilian Nuclear Sector

As a result of a long-standing policy prioritizing energy security, France has a robust civil nuclear sector. France is home to 58 nuclear power plants operated by Électricité de France (EDF), which generate about 75 percent of the country's electricity. [31] France is also Europe's largest provider of electricity, which it regularly supplies to neighboring countries such as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. [32] Demand is created by the comparatively small nuclear sectors of these countries; Italy, for example, does not have any operating nuclear power plants. [33]

The origins of French nuclear energy policy lay in the first oil shock of 1973, after which the government decided to rapidly expand the country's nuclear energy sector and to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels. This need for nuclear energy is made more acute by its lack of natural energy resources. Beginning in 1974, an aggressive nuclear power program was launched based on Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) technology and France has since invested more than $160 billion in its nuclear program. [34] As a result, the country now has a high level of energy independence and relatively low carbon emissions (some of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in the world).

All of France's reactors are currently PWRs designed by Areva (the French nuclear energy company), but the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is also in the early process of designing Generation IV reactors. Three fourth-generation technologies are being pursued: gas-cooled fast reactors; sodium-cooled fast reactors; and very high temperature gas-cooled reactors. [35] Areva, in conjunction with the German company Siemens, is also developing the European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) at a nuclear site in Flamanville, Normandie. In mid-2004 the board of EDF decided to build a demonstration unit for an expected series of 1650 MWe Areva EPRs and this decision was confirmed in 2006. [36] Construction of the EPR at Flamanville began in December 2007, and was initially slated for completion by 2012. However, the reactor is now scheduled to begin operations in 2016. [37]

France is also an extensive exporter of civilian nuclear technology, having previously supplied PWR reactor technology to Belgium, South Africa, South Korea and China. [38] Both China and Finland are currently building French-designed reactors and Beijing recently signed an 8 billion Euro contract to buy two Areva EPRs. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with India and talks are underway to export EPR technology to the United Kingdom, India, Abu Dhabi and the United States. [39]

On 27 June 2011, President Sarkozy announced his government's intention to borrow and invest one billion Euros into the French civilian nuclear sector, and particularly into fourth-generation technology. Sarkozy's speech linked the plan to maintaining French energy independence, creating economic growth, and improving nuclear security. [40] His successor, Francois Hollande, has been less enthusiastic about the future of France's nuclear energy sector. By 2025 Hollande would like to reduce the amount of electricity produced by nuclear plants from 75 to about 50 percent. In 2014, he also announced plans to close the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant by 2017 due to safety concerns. [41]

Fuel Cycle Facilities

France imports uranium oxide from Canada and Niger, while most fuel cycle services are carried out domestically by Areva. [42] The country's fuel-cycle facilities can be categorized as follows:

  • Conversion - Natural uranium is converted to hexafluoride at several different plants. Natural uranium is converted to tetrafluoride at the newer Malvesi plant, and is then converted into hexafluoride at either the Comurhex Pierrelatte plant or the Pierrelatte plant in Tricastin. [43]
  • Enrichment - Gaseous diffusion takes place at the Eurodif plant, Tricastin. In 2003 Areva also agreed to purchase a 50 percent stake in the Urenco Enrichment Technology Company (ETC). [44] This deal will provide Areva with access to Urenco centrifuge technology. A new enrichment plant, Georges Besse II, started running in 2011. [45]
  • Fuel Fabrication - Areva carries out fuel fabrication in multiple plants in both France and Belgium. Once spent fuel has been reprocessed at La Hague in Normandy, plutonium is then fabricated at the Melox plant near Marcoule to produce mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. [46]
  • Reprocessing - Reprocessing is carried out by Areva at La Hague, where back-end services are provided for France and other countries. [47]

Nuclear Fusion

In 2005, France was awarded the right to host the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of producing commercial energy from fusion. The experimental reactor is located at a CEA (Atomic Energy Commission) research and development site at Cadarache in southern France. Partners in the project include the European Union (EU), the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China. [48] Site preparation began in 2007 and facility construction began in July 2010. Cadarache narrowly beat another prospective site, Rokkasho in Japan, partly because the EU agreed to pay 45 percent of the plant's construction costs. The facility is expected to begin operations in 2022. [49]

Fissile Materials

According to France's 2013 INFCIRC/549 declaration to the IAEA Board of Governors, on 31 December 2012 it possessed 42.4 tons (t) of separated plutonium in product stores at reprocessing plants. [50] In addition, there were 30.6t of plutonium in unirradiated MOX fuel and other fabricated products at reactor sites, as well as 7.1t of unirradiated plutonium in the course of fabrication. France also holds 0.5t elsewhere. Plutonium contained in spent fuel at civilian nuclear reactor sites was estimated at 110.6t and there was a further 144.4t contained in spent fuel at reprocessing plants. Approximately 6.4t of plutonium was contained in spent fuel held elsewhere. This brings the total amount of plutonium held in spent fuel on 31 December 2012 to 261.4t. [51]

In the report, France also voluntarily declared its stock of civilian highly enriched uranium (HEU). [52] According to this declaration, France has the following stocks of civilian HEU: 968kg at fuel fabrication plants or other processing facilities; 1819kg at civilian reactor sites; 428kg at laboratories and research centers; 123kg of irradiated HEU at civil reactor sites; and 1406kg of irradiated HEU at locations other than civil reactor sites. This brings France's total inventory of HEU holdings to 4744kg. [53]

Sources:
[1] Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, "Report submitted by France under actions 5,20, and 21 of the Final Document of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 28 April-9 May 2014, www.un.org.
[2] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November-December 2009, p. 90; and "The Military Balance 2009," International Institute of Strategic Studies, (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 119; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 44th ed, Oxford University Press, 2013.
[3] "La dissuasion nucléaire," (The Nuclear Deterrent), Ministère de la défense (Ministry of Defense), last modified 16 April 2013, accessed 16 June 2014, www.defense.gouv.fr.
[4] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 44th ed, Oxford University Press, 2013.
[5] "Le SNLE Le Vigilant Retrouve l'Ile Longue," Mer et Marine, 22 October 2012, www.meretmarine.com; "L'enquête sur le missile M51 est bientôt bouclée…mais elle restera confidentielle," France Télévisions, 16 May 2013, bretagne.france3.fr.
[6] "The Military Balance 2009," International Institute of Strategic Studies, (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 119 and "Le missile M51, pièce maitresse de la force de frappe francaise" (The M51 Missile, the Dominating Weapon of France's Strike Force), Le Figaro, May 2013, www.lefigaro.fr.
[7] "La dissuasion nucléaire," (The Nuclear Deterrent), Ministère de la défense (Ministry of Defense), last modified 16 April 2013, accessed 16 June 2014, www.defense.gouv.fr.
[8] Bruno Tertrais, "French Perspectives on Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Disarmament," in (ed) Barry Blechman, Unblocking the Road to Zero, The Henry L. Stimson Center, February 2009, p.11; David S. Yost, "France's Nuclear Deterrence Strategy: Concepts and Operational Implementation," in Getting MAD: Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction, its Origins and Practice, Henry D. Sokolski, ed., (Pennsylvania, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2004), pg 197-237.
[9] Le ministère de la défense. (Ministry of Defense), "Loi n° 2013-1168 du 18 décembre 2013: Loi de programmation militaire 2014-2019" (Military Programming Law), www.senat.fr.
[10] Loi n° 2013-1168 du 18 décembre 2013. Loi de programmation militaire 2014-2019. Senat.fr.
[11] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009,"Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November-December 2009, p. 90 and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 44th ed, Oxford University Press, 2013.
[12] Kingston Reif, "Nuclear weapons: The modernization myth," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 8 December 2009, www.thebulletin.org; and Pierre Tran, "France Qualifies Rafale to full F3 Standard," Defense News, www.defensenews.com.
[13] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November-December 2009, p. 91; Hans Kristensen, "France," in Assuring Destruction Forever, ed. Ray Acheson (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 2012) 27-30; "ASMP-A" Missile Threat, 5 April 2013, missilethreat.com.
[14] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 44th ed, Oxford University Press, 2013.
[15] "UK-France Summit 2010 Declaration on Defence and Security Cooperation," 10 Downing Street, 2 November 2010, www.number10.gov.uk.
[16] "Cameron and Sarkozy hail UK-France defence treaties," BBC News, 2 November 2010, www.bbc.co.uk.
[17] Michel Bebré, "Le Livre blanc sur la défense," (White Paper on Defense), Ministère de la défense, 1972.
[18] Speech of President Jacques Chirac during a visit to the French strategic forces at Ille Longue, Brest, 19 January 2006, www.ambafrance-au.org; and President Nicolas Sarkozy, "Presentation of Le Terrible in Cherbourg, 21 March 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org; "Hollande exclut l'abandon de la dissuasion nucléaire proposé par Rocard," Le Parisien, 20 June 2013, www.leparisien.fr; "Livre Blanc: Défense et Sécurité Nationale,"Ministère de la Défense, 29 April 2013; "The main thrust of the White Paper: Twelve key points and new orientations," Ministère de la Défense, 2013.
[19] George Friedman, "France's Strategy," Geopolitical Weekly: Stratfor, 15 May 2012.
[20] Speech of President Jacques Chirac during a visit to the French strategic forces at Ille Longue, Brest, 19 January 2006, www.ambafrance-au.org.
[21] Bruno Tertrais, "The Last to Disarm? The Future of France's Nuclear Weapons," Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, July 2007, p.253.
[22] President Nicolas Sarkozy, "Presentation of Le Terrible in Cherbourg," 21 March 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[23] Bruno Tertrais, "France and Nuclear Disarmament: The Meaning of the Sarkozy Speech," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1 May 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[24] The Ministry of Defense, Les Français et la Défense, 2006, in Bruno Tertrais, "La dissuasion nucléaire en 2030," Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, www.frstrategie.org, December 2006, p.40. Individuals were asked "Could a country like France defend herself without a deterrence force (nuclear)?"
[25] President Nicolas Sarkozy, "Presentation of Le Terrible in Cherbourg," 21 March 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[26] "Loi relative à la transparence et à la sécurité en matière nucléaire/Loi n°2006-686," (Nuclear Transparency and Security Law), 13 June 2006, www.senat.fr.
[27] Bruno Tertrais, "French Perspectives on Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Disarmament," in (ed) Barry Blechman, Unblocking the Road to Zero, The Henry L. Stimson Center, February 2009, p.13.
[28] President Nicolas Sarkozy, "Presentation of Le Terrible in Cherbourg," 21 March 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[29] Letter from Nicolas Sarkozy to Ban Ki-moon, Embassy of France in the United Kingdom, 5 December 2008, www.ambafrance-uk.org.
[30] "France organized a tour of its former military facilities at Pierrelatte and Marcoule," Joint Communiqué of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, 16 December 2008, www.diplomatie.gouv.fr.
[31] "Nuclear Power in France," World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org, 16 June 2014.
[32]"Nuclear Power in France," World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org, 16 June 2014.
[33] "International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Nuclear Power Reactors in the World 2014 Edition, 16 June 2014, www-pub.iaea.org.
[34] "Nuclear Energy in France," Embassy of France in the United States, www.ambafrance-us.org.
[35] "L'énergie nucléaire" (Nuclear Energy) Electricité de France (EDF) Brochure 2014. http://energie.edf.com.
[36] "Nuclear Power in France," World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org, 16 June 2014.
[37] Jean-Michel Bezat, "EDF et AREVA veulent rendre l'EPR enfin exportable," (EDF and AREVA would like the European Pressurized Reactor to finally become exportable). Le Monde, www.lemonde.fr.
[38] "Nuclear Power in France," World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org, February 2014.
[39] Dave Clark "French nuclear export drive tainted by safety fears," AFP, 4 November 2009.
[40] Gabrielle Parsunni and William Horobin, "Sarkozy: To Invest EUR 1 Bln In 4th Generation Nuclear Reactors," The Wall Street Journal, 27 June 2011, http://online.wsj.com.
[41] Rob Broomby, "France struggles to cut down on nuclear power," BBC News, 10 Jan 2014, www.bbc.com.
[42] "Operations," AREVA, www.areva.com.
[43] "Operations," AREVA, www.areva.com.
[44] "Nuclear Power in France," World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org, 16 June 2014.
[45] "Operations," AREVA, www.areva.com.
[46] Areva, Operations. Recycling Spent Fuel, www.areva.com, 2014
[47] Areva, Operations. Recycling Spent Fuel, www.areva.com.
[48] Robin McKie, "Nuclear fusion dream hit by EU's cash dilemma," The Guardian, 6 June 2010, www.guardian.co.uk; "Building ITER," ITER Organization, 2013, www.iter.org.
[49] Steve Connor, "One giant leap for mankind: £13bn Iter project makes breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion, a solution for climate change and an age of clean, cheap energy," The Independent, 27 April 2013, www.independent.co.uk.
[50] "Communication received from France concerning its policies regarding the management of plutonium," International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/549/Add.5/17, 28 August 2013, www.iaea.org.
[51] "Communication received from France concerning its policies regarding the management of plutonium," International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/549/Add.5/17, 28 August 2013, www.iaea.org.
[52] "Communication received from France concerning its policies regarding the management of plutonium," International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/549/Add.5/17, 28 August 2013, www.iaea.org.
[53] "Communication received from France concerning its policies regarding the management of plutonium," International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/549/Add.5/17, 28 August 2013, www.iaea.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on France

  • Maintains an arsenal of approximately 300 nuclear weapons
  • Manufactured significant quantities of Sarin and VX nerve agents during the 1960s, but asserted in 1988 that it no longer possessed or produced chemical weapons.
  • Currently developing a next-generation ballistic missile for its SSBNs