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PARIS – France's military purposely exposed soldiers to a 1961 nuclear test in the Sahara Desert to study how the atomic bomb would affect their bodies and minds, a French news report said Tuesday, citing a classified defense document.
The defense report said soldiers emerged from their shelters 20 minutes after the explosion "and looked with apprehension at the cloud," Le Parisien said. Soldiers on foot advanced toward the epicenter, stopping 700 meters (765 yards) away, the report said. Armored reconnaissance vehicles advanced to 275 meters (300 yards) from the site.
The men wore gas masks, but military officials concluded that such protection slowed down maneuvers and decided that in the future, foot soldiers should replace them with simple anti-dusk masks, Le Parisien said, citing the report.
France's parliament last year passed a law to compensate victims who acquired health problems following the tests, with sums to be decided on a case-by-case basis.