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Bikini Atoll – food grown there is radioactive – but, it’s “technically habitable”!

Technically Habitable    The background radiation of the island has been found to be at normal levels, and even lower than that of some major US cities. While you could walk around on the island and suffer no real ill effects, living there is an entirely different story because of the aforementioned soil and subsequent food contamination.

Ironically for the islanders of Bikini Atoll, the word ‘bikini’ likely comes from ‘pikinni’ which, in the Marshallese language means ‘coconut place

The Radioactive Coconuts of Bikini Atoll, Beginning in 1946, a series of Atomic bombs were tested on and around the Marshall islands, of which Bikini Atoll is one, as both a means of testing and refining the incredibly destructive power demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki just a year earlier, as well as making a clear statement of US atomic superiority over the Russians.  Medium 21 Aug 20,  Danny Kane

For those that don’t know, Bikini Atoll was the US’ test site during the 1940s and 1950s for 23 separate Nuclear bombs.

Beginning in 1946, a series of Atomic bombs were tested on and around the Marshall islands, of which Bikini Atoll is one, as both a means of testing and refining the incredibly destructive power demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki just a year earlier, as well as making a clear statement of US atomic superiority over the Soviet Union.

The Micronesian inhabitants of Bikini Atoll were approached in 1946 by the US government and asked to re-locate while the tests were being carried out. They would be transported to Rongerik Atoll, which is about 6 times smaller than Bikini Atoll — it also has insufficient food and water supplies and was uninhabited at the time………..

The islanders on Rongerik Atoll were starving, the land their being far less fertile than their native Bikini. They were then moved to Kili Island. It was little improvement for the islanders. Relying on fishing for a large part of their diet, they found Kili, which has no lagoons and rough seas most of the year particularly difficult to survive on.

But on March 1st, 1954, the fate of Bikini Atoll was about to take a destructive turn. Ironically, the bomb that was detonated was one of the few not detonated on the Atoll, instead it was detonated on an artificial island 900m from Namu island. This was the infamous Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb. It exploded that day with the force of 15mt , far more than the 6mt that was expected. It was 750 times more powerful that the Fat Man bomb that levelled Nagasaki. It denoted with 2.5 times the expected yield and remains the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated by the US, equivalent to 15 million tonnes of TNT.

Appropriate precautions hadn’t been taken for such a large detonation, and so nuclear fallout rained down on Bikini Atoll, Rongelap Atoll and Rongerik Atoll. 20,000 people were affected by the Castle Bravo detonation and 15 islands and atolls were contaminated. People showed signs of acute radiation sickness, and, on Rongelap, 2 cm of nuclear ash blanketed the entire island. Children, unaware of the fallouts affects, began playing with the falling ash like snow.

Returning Home

Another 19 atomic bombs would be detonated on and around Bikini Atoll, the last one Juniper on July 22nd, 1954, almost 12 years to the day since the Baker detonationNow, the fight to return to Bikini Atoll really began. Struggling to survive on Kili Island, the islanders were eager to return home.

In spite of all we’d put it through Bikini Atoll had recovered from its years of abuse at the hands of the US. Having been bounced between various islands and atolls since the testing began, Kili had become their permeant home since 1948, but the islands desperately wanted to return home. It wouldn’t be until 1968 until they got the chance. President Lyndon B Johnson promised that the islanders could return, but an investigation by the Atomic Energy Commission found that the radiation levels in the coconut crab, an essential food source for the islanders, were far above normal and acceptable limits. As such, the islanders were forced to remain on Kili island.

Three families did move back in 1972, followed by others in 1987 despite later advice. Issues continued to plague the islanders though, with a boy who’d been born on Bikini Atoll dying from cancer caused by the radiation. In 1982, those that had returned would be evacuated for a second time when it was found that the top 15 inches of soil contained high concentrations of Caesium 137, which would then make its way into the various plants and fruits the islanders ate — and yes, even the coconuts were affected. This resulted in a high number of stillbirths, miscarriages and genetic abnormalities in the children born from those affected by the atomic tests conducted in and around Bikini Atoll. What’s more men were four times as likely to develop lung cancer on the island, women 60 times more likely develop cervical cancer

Over $150 million has been paid to the Bikini islanders as compensation and to reconstruct homes, facilities and institutions for the islanders, many of whom now live on Kili Island. The call to return to Bikini Atoll is still strong though and many point to the fact that the island is still technically habitable.

Technically Habitable

The background radiation of the island has been found to be at normal levels, and even lower than that of some major US cities. While you could walk around on the island and suffer no real ill effects, living there is an entirely different story because of the aforementioned soil and subsequent food contamination.

One proposed solution, and the one favoured by the islanders themselves, is to scrap the topsoil. The top 15 inches of Caesium 137 contaminated soil would be removed and replaced with potassium rich soil. The plants, preferring the potassium over the caesium, would quickly switch to that. While Caesium 137 would still be present in the earth, it would be absent from the food.

There are unfortunately a number of issues with this. Removing the topsoil would have a devasting effect on the ecology of the island and scientists have argued that it would effectively turn Bikini Atoll into a wasteland. This is to say nothing of the expense and the fact that the scraping of the topsoil would likely have to be repeated on occasion to ensure that Caesium 137 didn’t return to the food supply.

Right now, the islanders live on a majority imported food supply and it’s likely that they could continue to do this on Bikini Atoll. It is hardly a return to normal life on the home island though and if the islanders are forced into the same food import practices they’ve had since the 40s, many argue why return to the island at all. Many islanders seem willing to take the risk of destroying the island if it means that they can return their a potentially grow food once more like their ancestors of old.

And so, it remains to this day. The Bikini islanders have never returned home, instead being forced into limbo. Most live on Kili Island today and there are as many as 2,400 Bikini islanders, with fewer than 40 of them having been alive to witness the fires of nuclear fission all those years ago. A great many of them have never even visited their home island, which in recent years has become a tourist attraction. A great many diving tours are offered, especially of the sunken USS Arkansas and the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier, two of the many ships sunk in the testing, as well as the colossal crater left by Castle Bravo…………..

Ironically for the islanders of Bikini Atoll, the word ‘bikini’ likely comes from ‘pikinni’ which, in the Marshallese language means ‘coconut place’………https://medium.com/@dannykane97/the-radioactive-coconuts-of-bikini-atoll-9bfb568b8b07

 

August 22, 2020 - Posted by | environment, radiation, Reference, weapons and war

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