Stopping fissile material production for nuclear weapons

Stopping fissile material production for nuclear weapons is a priority for France and is a core issue in the nuclear disarmament process, with the entry into force of the Comprehensives Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In the same way the CTBT established a limit for qualitative development of nuclear weapons, the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) will establish an overall quantitative limit for nuclear arsenals that is legally binding and universal in scope. The FMCT and the CTBT are thus expected to achieve a dual qualitative and quantitative freeze on nuclear arsenals which is crucial for future disarmament efforts.

That is why France has strongly promoted for nearly 15 years now the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. It was one of the French disarmament proposals announced by the President of the French Republic in his speech at Istres on 19 February 2015 : France just presented to its partners a draft Cut-Off Treaty (on April 9th, 2015) 1. This text was filed as an official document of the Conference on Disarmament and was submitted as a working paper at the 9th NPT Review Conference (New York, 27 April-22 May 2015). It is also one of the priority actions identified in the final document adopted by consensus at the NPT Review Conference in 2010.

France has long set an example.

G2 reactor dismantling. Photo credit : CEAG2 reactor dismantling. Photo credit : CEA

In 1992 it ceased all production of plutonium for its nuclear weapons and took similar steps in 1996 with regard to its highly enriched uranium. It is implementing a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

In 1996, it was the first State to decide to close and dismantle its fissile material production facilities for nuclear weapons at Pierrelatte and Marcoule.

The reprocessing plant in Marcoule ended all activity regarding fuel for defence purposes in 1993 and was definitively closed down in late 1996. Dismantling operations of the facility are under way. The decision to close down and dismantle the uranium enrichment plant in Pierrelatte was made in 1996 and immediately put into effect. The plant is still in the process of being dismantled today.

The dismantling of these facilities is indeed irreversible, as the representatives of the Member States of the Conference on Disarmament, non-governmental experts and journalists observed during visits of the facilities organized by France in 2008 and 2009. France today no longer has facilities that produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

France is involved in the Group of Governmental Experts created by Resolution 67/53. It believes that the in-depth discussions on the fundamental elements of a treaty which it helped to carry out make a useful contribution to preparing negotiations for a legally binding international instrument. France calls for such negotiations to begin without delay.

From this moment, France calls on all concerned States to strictly observe an immediate moratorium on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and to shut down and, where possible, convert to civilian uses or dismantle its facilities for the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

To find out more
- Download the visits presentation booklet (PDF 587 kB)
- Photo Gallery for the 16 September 2008 visit for CD Member States
- Photo Gallery for the 16 March 2009 visit for NGO experts
- Photo Gallery for the 3 July 2009 visit for international journalists,
- Photo Gallery of the dismantling operation at Pierrelatte and Marcoule UP1 and G2 (June 2009)
- Refer to the CEA datasheet on the Pierrelatte and Marcoule dismantlement (in French) (PDF 4.8 MB)