World Court condemns French nuclear tests

23 June 1973

Protest against French nuclear testing, Wellington, 1972 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-020364-F)

The ruling by the International Court of Justice was part of New Zealand’s long campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific. Though the French ignored the court’s interim injunction and carried on testing in the atmosphere, continuing protests soon forced them to move the tests underground.

New Zealanders had actively opposed French nuclear testing since the mid-1960s, when the tests were shifted from the Sahara to the Pacific. Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago became the focal point for both the tests and opposition to them. Greenpeace vessels sailed into the test site in 1972, delaying tests by several weeks.

In 1973 the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the International Court of Justice in an attempt to ban the tests. France ignored the court’s ruling that they must cease testing, but mounting international pressure forced them to switch to underground tests the following year.