WELLINGTON, New Zealand — France has exploded its fifth underground nuclear device of the year at its Mururoa Atoll test site in the South Pacific, the New Zealand government announced Thursday.
Scientists of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research said the explosion had a yield of 20 kilotons--a force slightly greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Officials said it was the 80th test since France began its testing program in 1975. The largest blast recorded at the French atoll 3,000 miles northwest of Wellington was rated at 150 kilotons in May, 1985.
Despite strong protests from New Zealand, Australia and Pacific rim countries, France has refused to halt the tests, saying they are necessary for the country's security.