There are no official statistics on the number of victims. The only figures can be found in the records kept by the French representative of the local church, which lists 42,000 victims of nuclear tests. Three years ago, the French Ministry of Defense issued a statement, putting the number at 27,000 people. The victims include French soldiers as well as local Algerians who lived in the surrounding areas.
However, these figures do not take into account the untimely deaths of the descendants of these people, who were affected by cancer and other nuclear radiation-related illnesses. To this day, the contaminated areas pose a danger to life and health.
A representative of the 'Desert Detainees' (a community of people who served sentences in prisons located in the desert regions of Algeria from 1992 to 1996), Nureddin Mauhub, said that many prisoners were exposed to radiation while serving their sentences in jails in the desert.
Nuclear engineer Ammar Mansuri told the newspaper Arabi al-Jadid, that in fact, there were more nuclear tests carried out in Algeria.
“France conducted 13 underground nuclear tests, 4 ground tests, 4 plutonium tests and 35 other tests,” he said.
According to him, the nuclear tests documentation was passed on to the Algerian government only 10 years ago.
Some of the documents are still classified. For these reasons, no systematic observations or studies have been conducted in the area in the past century. Therefore, no timely measures were taken to reduce the negative impact on the environment. It is difficult to say how the level of contamination has changed over the past decades and what to expect in the future.
The Algerian government claims that the contaminated area is more than 100 square km, according to the Al-Arabi al-Jadid website. However, problems aren't limited to this exclusion zone. The desert winds carry contaminated particles to formally clean areas. There's now a need to study the level of radiation in the desert to accurately determine the boundaries of the contaminated area.