Nuclear chromosomes: The national security implications of a French nuclear exit

The French political consensus supports both civilian and military nuclear programs as part of a national identity that presupposes France’s global influence. It is technically possible for the French government to maintain its nuclear deterrent force as it is today without a civilian nuclear power industry; the channels of production of weapons and their delivery systems are distinct from those used for the power industry. Because many aspects of the civilian and military nuclear programs have been intertwined for decades, however, the end of financing for civilian nuclear research projects would increase the cost of maintaining the nuclear arsenal. And in France, the link between the civilian and military nuclear sectors is far more than a budgetary matter. From its beginnings after World War II, the French nuclear effort has occupied an exalted position in the country’s national identity. In fact, one could reasonably argue that it would take a reimagining of that identity, and a reconsideration of France’s nuclear deterrent, before a French exit from civilian nuclear power could become a serious possibility.

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