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Criminality of atomic bomb testing in Marshall Islands

U.S. Human Radiation Experiments Covered Up by Public Broadcasting Op Ed News, By William Boardman — Reader Supported News 10 Jan 14 ”……..director  [of film Nobles Savages] Adam Horowitz has been angry about American treatment of the Marshall Islands for a long time. In late 2013 he told a reporter the U.S. “destroyed an entire country that we were not at war with, that we were at peace with. Not only did they blow up all these islands, but they purposely contaminated all these people as human experiments. It’s a very unknown story here.”


The story was classified top secret until the 1990s, when the Clinton administration declassified documents related to nuclear testing that including previously unknown information on the Project 4.1 program to use Pacific Islanders as human guinea pigs for assessing the impact of ionizing radiation. Even the official historian of U.C. nuclear testing, Barton Hacker, who tries to minimize the criminality of Project 4.1, ended up writing in 1994 that an “unfortunate choice of terminology may help explain later charges that the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] had deliberately exposed the Marshallese to observe the effects. Like the American radium dial painters of the 1920s and the Japanese of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the Marshallese of 1954 inadvertently were to provide otherwise  unobtainable data on the human consequences of high radiation exposures.” 

n 1946, the U.S. evacuated the entire population of Bikini Atoll (167 people) and logged the first of 23 atomic weapons explosions that have made what’s left of the atoll (part of it was vaporized) a largely uninhabitable radioactivetourist destination [one report says 4-6 “caretakers” live there]. Most of the 167 original residents have died, but their descendants number more than 4,000. A 1975 federal lawsuit (seeking roughly $750 million in compensation promised but not paid by the U.S.) was denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2010, but the effort to make the U.S. provide just compensation continues.

Later in 2010, UNESCO named Bikini a “world heritage site” as a symbol of the “dawn of the nuclear age.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that Bikini is close to the “safe” radiation level of 15 millirems — but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the “safe” level is really 100 millirems, and the contradiction remains unreconciled.

In 1947, the United Nations included the Marshall Islands in a Trust Territory controlled by the U.S., whose obligations included the duty to “protect the inhabitants against the loss of their lands and resources.” Later in the year the U.S. evacuated the entire population of Enewetak Atoll, where it would explode another 44 atomic weapons, the last series in 1958.

On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded its first deliverable hydrogen bomb that, at 15 megatons, was more than 1,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb of 1945. The official story, which the U.S. government still defends, is that it was an “accident” that the bomb dumped so much radiation on downwind populations, and that Project 4.1 was initiated after the blast in order to help the victims as well as study them.

The record includes one reference to Project 4.1 prior to March 1 [the government says someone put it there after the fact]. More troubling is the undisputed evidence that the U.S. was aware that the weather had changed, that the wind was blowing toward populated areas, but they went ahead with the test anyway. After the radiation came down like “snow” on Rongelap and other islands, the Navy evacuated American personnel quickly, but left the “happy, amenable savages” to absorb more radiation for another two days.

As early as 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission had characterized the Marshall Islands as “by far the most contaminated place in the world.”

In 1998, staff from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a comparison study to compare the amount of radioactive Iodine-131 at four different radiation-polluted sites, measured in curies(1,000 curies of Cesium-137, as found in a radiation therapy machine, could produce serious health effects in a direct exposure of just a few minutes). The CDC team reported its finding that the atmospheric release of curies of Iodine-137 at the Hanford nuclear processing plant was 739,000 curies; at Chernobyl the release was 40 million curies; at the Nevada bomb test site, 150 million curies; and in the Marshall Islands, 6.3 billion curies (more that 30 times as much radiation as the other three sites combined).

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is ranked #5 in the world among countries with the highest health costs as a percentage of GDP — behind Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tuvalu, and the United States.

The history of the treatment of the radiation victims of the Marshall Islands is essentially a paradigm for the treatment of radiation victims everywhere. The perpetrators of radiation-exposure lose patience with the seemingly endless  effects of their acts and so they tend to abandon all responsibility for them.  So far at least, the Marshall Islands history appears to be foreshadowing Fukushima’s future….

January 11, 2014 - Posted by | OCEANIA, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war

1 Comment »

  1. […] Posted on January 8, 2016 by filippomax Posted in Blogs Image courtesy by Nuclear News […]

    Pingback by “Marshall Islands nuclear lawsuit reopens old wounds” | The PastaBrio | January 9, 2016 | Reply

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