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75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc 

75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc    https://theconversation.com/75-years-after-nuclear-testing-in-the-pacific-began-the-fallout-continues-to-wreak-havoc-158208?fbclid=IwAR3q9QJvy507ds2kD0ibOvkD6ZzxFqgGjfHsGrwqJUVMNpujOu8sAeLVPtY
April 6, 2021  Patricia A. O’Brien 
Patricia A. O’Brien is a Friend of The Conversation.Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University,    This year marks 75 years since the United States launched its immense atomic testing program in the Pacific. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands, then a UN Trust Territory governed by the US, have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation.Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, the legacies of this history are shaping the present in myriad ways.

This history has Australian dimensions too, though decades of diplomatic distance between Australia and the Marshall Islands have hidden an entangled atomic past.

In 1946, the Marshall Islands seemed very close for many Australians. They feared the imminent launch of the US’s atomic testing program on Bikini Atoll might split the earth in two, catastrophically change the earth’s climate, or produce earthquakes and deadly tidal waves.

A map accompanying one report noted Sydney was only 3,100 miles from ground zero. Residents as far away as Perth were warned if their houses shook on July 1, “it may be the atom bomb test”.

Australia was “included in the tests” as a site for recording blast effects and monitoring for atom bombs detonated anywhere in the world by hostile nations. This Australian site served to keep enemies in check and achieve one of the Pacific testing program’s objectives: to deter future war. The other justification was the advancement of science.

The earth did not split in two after the initial test (unless you were Marshallese) so they continued; 66 others followed over the next 12 years. But the insidious and multiple harms to people and place, regularly covered up or denied publicly, became increasingly hard to hide.

Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia, thyroid and other cancers became prevalent in exposed Marshallese, at least four islands were “partially or completely vapourised”, the exposed Marshallese “became subjects of a medical research program” and atomic refugees. (Bikinians were allowed to return to their atoll for a decade before the US government removed them again when it was realised a careless error falsely claimed radiation levels were safe in 1968.)

In late 1947, the US moved its operations to Eniwetok Atoll, a decision, it was argued, to ensure additional safety. Eniwetok was more isolated and winds were less likely to carry radioactive particles to populated areas.

Australian reports noted this site was only 3,200 miles from Sydney. Troubling reports of radioactive clouds as far away as the French Alps and the known shocking health effects appeared.

Dissenting voices were initially muted due to the steep escalation of the Cold War and Soviet atomic weapon tests beginning in 1949.

Opinion in Australia split along political lines. Conservative Cold War warriors, chief among them Robert Menzies who became prime minister again in 1949, kept Australia in lockstep with the US, and downplayed the ill-effects of testing. Left-wing elements in Australia continued to draw attention to the “horrors” it unleashed.

The atomic question came home in 1952, when the first of 12 British atomic tests began on the Montebello Islands, off Western Australia.   Australia’s involvement in atomic testing expanded again in 1954, when it began supplying South Australian-mined uranium to the US and UK’s joint defence purchasing authority, the Combined Development Agency.

Australia’s economic stake in the atomic age from 1954 collided with the galvanisation of global public opinion against US testing in Eniwetok. The massive “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in March exposed Marshall Islanders and a Japanese fishing crew on The Lucky Dragon to catastrophic radiation levels “equal to that received by Japanese people less than two miles from ground zero” in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. Graphic details of the fishermen’s suffering and deaths and a Marshallese petition to the United Nations followed.

When a UN resolution to halt US testing was voted on in July, Australia voted for its continuation. But the tide of public opinion was turning against testing. The events of 1954 dispelled the notion atomic waste was safe and could be contained. The problem of radioactive fish travelling into Australian waters highlighted these new dangers, which spurred increasing world wide protests until the US finally ceased testing in the Marshalls in 1958.

In the 1970s, US atomic waste was concentrated under the Runit Island dome, part of Enewetak Atoll (about 3,200 miles from Sydney). Recent alarming descriptions of how precarious and dangerous this structure is due to age, sea water inundation and storm damage exacerbated by climate change were contested in a 2020 Trump-era report.

The Biden administration’s current renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and its prioritisation of action on climate change, will put Runit Island high on the agenda. There is an opportunity for historical redress for the US that is even more urgent given the upsurge in discrimination against US-based Pacific Islander communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are peoples displaced by the tests.

Australia is also embarking on a new level of engagement with the Marshall Islands: it is due to open its first embassy in the capital Majuro in 2021.It should be remembered this bilateral relationship has an atomic history too. Australia supported the US testing program, assisted with data collection and voted in the UN for its continuation when Marshallese pleaded for it to be stopped. It is also likely Australian-sourced atomic waste lies within Runit Island, cementing Australia in this history.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research into the effects of nuclear bomb tests on Montebello islands

Montebello Islands the focus of new research to test nuclear impact. 

By Susan Standen  22 Mar 21, A new Edith Cowan University research project hopes to collect important data on the impact of historical nuclear testing in the remote Montebello Islands area.

Key points:

  • New research will look at remaining radioactive residue in Montebello Islands
  • Plutonium nuclides persist in sediment of the marine environment
  • The research may be used in future to track fish migrations along the WA coast

Sixty years after the British government conducted nuclear explosion testing on the islands, there is little data available to find how much residue plutonium still exists.

The project hopes to be the first study to outline how and where man-made radioactivity is still existing in the marine sediment.

Collections of sediment are being collected from remote field trips to the islands to analyse amounts of residue plutonium radionuclides.,,,,,,,,,,,,

Ms Hoffman says other island nations affected by nuclear blasts will be able to use the Montebello Islands research as a reference baseline to start their own investigations.

Will it inform health research?

Ms Hoffman says the first step is to find out what remains there as a legacy…………..

The project is a collaboration between the Edith Cowan University, the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-22/montebellos-nucelar-fallout-research/13260242

March 23, 2021 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Outcry in Tahiti over nuclear fallout study

Outcry in Tahiti over nuclear fallout study  https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/438520/outcry-in-tahiti-over-nuclear-fallout-study 16 March 2021 Walter Zweifel, RNZ Pacific Reporter

walter.zweifel@rnz.co.nz   There is renewed alarm in French Polynesia over the legacy of the French nuclear weapons tests.
There is renewed alarm in French Polynesia over the legacy of the French nuclear weapons tests.

For test veteran groups, the latest findings by Disclose confirmed that France had been economical with the truth.

At the heart of their campaign is the push for compensation, which has been a decade-long battle over measured and measurable fallout.

The Disclose assessment, if accepted, would make thousands more sick people eligible for compensation, and incur on France an obligation to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars.

The pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru said he denounced the tests all along and claims that the Disclose study proves that contamination extended to all inhabited islands as well as to other Pacific countries.

According to him, the test legacy should be raised by the Pacific Islands Forum.

Temaru furthermore pointed to the UN resolution of 2013 which put French Polynesia on the decolonisation list.

He argued that France had to report to the UN about the health and environmental impact of its 193 nuclear weapons tests.

Temaru accused France of duplicity in the way it dealt with French Polynesia and also took a swipe at the territory’s rival political side, which defended the tests.

A former president Gaston Flosse admitted he travelled the Pacific to reassure the region of the tests’ safety, but said he would now oppose the tests with physical force if he had known what price the territory had to pay.

In a statement, Flosse said on one hand that if the Disclose study was correct then France lied to French Polynesians for years.

On the other hand, he said France must re-examine all compensation claims that have been rejected, and should also scrap the compensation law because its very basis no longer existed.

The French Atomic Energy Commission, the French defence minister and the French High Commissioner in French Polynesia have largely dismissed the Disclose study.

In essence, they saw no new elements or said the existing studies had taken all relevant information into account.

The French Polynesian president Edouard Fritch expressed surprise at the virulent reaction in Tahiti.

However, nearly three years ago he told the assembly that he himself had been telling lies about the tests for decades.

For now, the French compensation commission will continue to pay compensation within the established framework, benefiting at best dozens of people.

Compensation is paid out of a sense of national solidarity not because the French state recognises any liability.

March 17, 2021 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Time to clean up Bikini Atoll,to right the nuclear wrongs done to the Pacific islands people.

After 75 years, it’s time to clean Bikini   https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/after-75-years-its-time-to-clean-bikini/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_CleanBikini_03082021

By Hart RapaportIvana Nikolić Hughes | March 9, 2021,   Due to their remote location in the Northern Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini Atoll were spared the worst of the mid-Pacific fighting between the American and Japanese armies in the final years of World War II. Their millennia-old culture and sustainable way of life ended abruptly when, in early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt, a representative of the occupying United States Navy, informed King Juda and other Bikini residents that the US would begin to test nuclear weapons near their homes. Wyatt asked the Bikinians to move elsewhere, stating that the temporary move was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.” Though Wyatt may have believed his words to be true, the show of might by the US that followed neither ended all conflict, nor was the exodus short-lived. Seventy-five years later, Bikinians have yet to return.

Nuclear testing in Bikini and other Marshall Islands, which lasted from 1946 to 1958, received international attention at the time. In those early Cold War days, America demonstrated its nuclear prowess through images of mushroom cloud blasts towering over the Pacific on the cover of Time magazine and other prominent publications. The word Bikini infiltrated popular culture via the name of a two-piece swimsuit (named by a French designer to be “explosive”) and SpongeBob’s home, without simultaneously suffusing our conscience with an awareness of the injustices and suffering those blasts caused the Marshallese people.

It is time, finally, to recognize and right the wrongs perpetrated by the US government in the Marshall Islands. The US forced a new and dangerous technology on the native lands and peoples, without fully comprehending the short- and long-term consequences. The Marshall Islands–and Bikini specifically–ended up the site of most of the tests of US hydrogen bombs, weapons up to a thousand times more powerful than atomic bombs used in attacks on Japan in 1945. Later, when the refugees were briefly returned to Bikini after testing ended, they were exposed to harmful radiation amounts with devastating health effects.

To be sure, the US government has taken steps to monitor and address the contamination that resulted from these nuclear detonations. However, the status quo—studies by the Energy Department for the sake of scientific publications and reports, while Bikinians continue to live on other islands—is not only inadequate, but morally repugnant. Bikini is a native land and water that, over thousands of years, was critical to the people’s sustenance and the bedrock of their culture. While some of those who survived the decades of relocations are still alive, their children and grandchildren, including the descendants of King Juda, have yet to resettle their ancestral home. Without an immediate US-government-funded plan to resettle the living refugees, the millennia-long culture and history tied to the atoll may be lost forever. Also, as one of the highest lying islands in the region, Bikini could be the solution to challenges the Marshallese face from global warming and corresponding rise of sea levels.

But it’s not as simple as saying: “Let’s move the Bikinians back.” A permanent return to the atoll by a multi-generational community would risk serious health effects unless sources of remaining radiological contamination in Bikini’s fruit, soil, and lagoon are addressed and removed, according to our research at Columbia University’s K=1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies. We have found radioactive materials throughout Bikini Atoll, resulting in background gamma radiation above the limit agreed upon by the Republic of the Marshall Islands and US and levels of cesium-137 in various fruits that violate most relevant international and domestic safety standards. Even the waters surrounding Bikini, a formerly plentiful source of food, are riddled with radioisotopes from the detonations. The cleanup may require a novel scientific approach on par with that used after the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents. That said, a modern nuclear testing cleanup protocol may prove useful in the event of future nuclear incidents in the United States or elsewhere.

The Biden administration has promised to lead in domestic and international spheres with morals and compassion. To do so, it must engage in a truthful, comprehensive accounting of past missteps in the Marshall Islands, regardless of whether the cost of reparations and resettlement exceeds its current pledge of roughly $110 million to Bikini. Commodore Wyatt’s allegedly “temporary” displacement of Bikinians from their native land has lasted 75 years and counting. Will the Biden administration act with morals to clean remaining radioactive material from US detonations? Will it act with compassion to help Bikinians find their way home?

March 13, 2021 Posted by | environment, history, indigenous issues, OCEANIA, Reference | Leave a comment

French Nuclear tests: revelations about a cancer epidemic

March 11, 2021 Posted by | France, health, OCEANIA, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

110, 000 people in French Polynesia affected by the radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests

BBC 9th March 2021, Researchers used declassified French military documents, calculations and testimonies to reconstruct the impact of a number of the tests. They
estimated that around 110,000 people in French Polynesia were affected by
the radioactive fallout. The number represented “almost the entire”
population at the time, the researchers found.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-56340159

March 11, 2021 Posted by | France, health, OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

France has consistently underestimated the devastating impact of its nuclear tests in French Polynesia

Guardian 9th March 2021, France has consistently underestimated the devastating impact of its nuclear tests in French Polynesia in the 1960s and 70s, according to
groundbreaking new research that could allow more than 100,000 people to
claim compensation. France conducted 193 nuclear tests from 1966 to 1996 at
Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, including 41 atmospheric
tests until 1974 that exposed the local population, site workers and French
soldiers to high levels of radiation. By crunching the data from 2,000
pages of recently declassified French defence ministry documents, analysing
maps, photos and other records, and carrying out dozens of interviews in
France and French Polynesia, researchers have meticulously reconstructed
three key nuclear tests and their fallout.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/09/france-has-underestimated-impact-of-nuclear-tests-in-french-polynesia-research-finds

March 11, 2021 Posted by | France, history, indigenous issues, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

New Zealand groups oppose launch of U.S. military nuclear satellite

a security expert has suggested it puts New Zealand into “the kill chain” and makes New Zealand a military target. 

March 9, 2021 Posted by | New Zealand, politics international, Reference, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear Free And Independent Pacific Day 2021

Nuclear Free And Independent Pacific Day 2021Monday, https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2103/S00005/nuclear-free-and-independent-pacific-day-2021.htm   1 March 2021, 
 Peace Movement Aotearoa   Today, 1 March, is Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day – the 67th anniversary of the ‘Bravo’ nuclear bomb detonation by the United States close to the surface of Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, which blasted out a crater more than 200 feet deep and a mile across.

Particles of radioactive fallout from the blast landed on the island of Rongelap (100 miles away) to a depth of one and a half inches in places, and radioactive mist appeared on Utirik (300 miles away). The US navy did not send ships to evacuate the people of Rongelap and Utirik until three days after the explosion. Fallout from this one nuclear weapon detonation spread over more than 7,000 square miles, and traces were detected throughout the Pacific, in India, Japan, the United States and Europe. The Marshallese, and other Pacific peoples subjected to more than 300 full scale nuclear bomb detonations in the Pacific – conducted by Britain, France and the US – were used as human guinea pigs in an obscene experiment to ‘progress’ the insane pursuit of nuclear weapons supremacy.

Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day is a day to remember that the arrogant colonial mindset which allowed, indeed encouraged, this horror continues today – the Pacific is still neither nuclear free nor independent.

Much of the Pacific remains under foreign control, from military or illegal occupation to dependence on a coloniser state for international representation, including ‘American’ Samoa, Cook Islands, French-Occupied Polynesia, Guam, Hawai’i, Kanaky, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Marianas, Pitcairn Island, Rapa Nui, Tokelau, Uvea mo Futuna, and West Papua. The voices of these Pacific peoples, along with the voices of ngā hapū o Aotearoa and indigenous Australians, are not heard directly in the UN General Assembly and other international forums where so many decisions on crucial issues affecting our region are made – not only on nuclear weapons and other disarmament priorities, but also on social and economic justice, human rights, protection of natural resources and the environment, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate justice and demilitarisation.

The Pacific is one of the regions that is being, and will continue to be, most impacted by climate change and extreme weather events which are affecting low-lying islands and Pacific peoples who are dependent on natural resources for food, clothing and shelter, and on water sources that are vulnerable to salinisation by rising sea levels and high seas. Yet the overwhelming majority of fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions do not come from the Pacific island nations.

The Pacific is also one of the most highly militarised regions in the world – but only four Pacific island nations have armed forces. The overwhelming majority of militarisation in the Pacific comes from outside the region – military bases, military training exercises, and military occupation by the armed forces of Indonesia, France and the United States, in particular, along with Australia, Britain, China, New Zealand, Russia and others.

Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Day is a day to think about the many faces of colonisation – physical, cultural, spiritual, economic, nuclear, military – past and present; the ongoing issues of independence, self-determination and sovereignty here in Aotearoa New Zealand and the other colonised and occupied countries of the Pacific; and the ability of Pacific peoples to stop further nuclearisation, militarisation and economic exploitation of our region.

It is a day to acknowledge and remember those who have suffered and died in the struggle for independence around the Pacific; those who have opposed colonisation in its many forms and paid for their opposition with their health and life; and those who have suffered and died as a result of the nuclear weapons states’ use of the Pacific for nuclear experimentation, uranium mining, nuclear bomb blasts and nuclear waste dumping.

It is a day to celebrate the courage, strength and endurance of indigenous Pacific peoples who have maintained and taken back control of their lives, languages and lands to ensure the ways of living and being which were handed down from their ancestors are passed on to future generations.

It is the day to pledge your support to continue the struggle for a nuclear free and independent Pacific, as the theme of the 8th Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Conference said: “No te parau tia, no te parau mau, no te tiamaraa, e tu, e tu – For justice, for truth and for independence, wake up, stand up!”

March 2, 2021 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

The continuing tragedy and nuclear abomination of U.S. tests on the Marshall Islands

The lingering legacy of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands,  https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/the-lingering-legacy-of-us-nuclear-testing-in-the-marshall-islands/NTHZG3PJNS6NXV4SZLPTHCANNY/13 Dec, 2020,  By RNZ.

The US detonated its largest nuclear bombs around the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 50s – but the Marshallese are still campaigning for adequate compensation.

The Marshall Islands are two chains of 29 coral atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

Following the tests, whole islands ceased to exist, hundreds of native Marshallese had to be relocated off their home islands and many were affected by fallout from the testing.

In 1977, US authorities put the most contaminated debris and soil into a huge concrete dome called the Runit Dome, which sits on Enewetak Atoll and houses 88,000 square metres of contaminated soil and debris.It has recently received media attention as it appears to be leaking, due to cracking and the threat from rising sea levels, while some Marshallese have fears it may eventually collapse.

However, American officials have said it’s not their problem and responsbility falls on the Marshallese, as it is their land.

The US has cited a 1986 compact of free association, which released the US goverment from further liability, which will go up for renegotiation in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Marshallese continue to campaign for adequate compensation from the US.

Giff Johnson, editor of the country’s only newspaper the Marshall Islands Journal and RNZ correspondent, has experienced the unfolding legacy of US nuclear testing first hand. His wife Darlene Keju, an outspoken advocate for test victims and nuclear survivors, herself died of cancer in 1996.

While he said that suggestions that the Rumit Dome – nicknamed “The Tomb” by locals – was about to collapse were alarmist, there were still major concerns surrouding it.

“I wouldn’t say the dome is on the verge of collapse, there’s concern about its leaking, about cracks, and also about the overall contamination of that atoll,” he said.

“The issue is it’s got plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,000 years, and how long does concrete last?”

Describing the structure as a “symbol of the nuclear legacy here”, Johnson said that US government scientists had reported there was already so much contamination in the area that it would be difficult to find what leakage from the dome had added.

The United States has continued to refuse to accept responsibility for the Runit Dome’s condition, despite its history of nuclear testing in the country.

In 1954, the US carried out their first nuclear weapon test, Castle Bravo, at Bikini Atoll in 1954 – which resulted in the contamination of 15 islands and atolls. Only three years later, residents on the affected atolls of Rongelap and Utirik were encouraged to return to their homes, so researchers could study the effects of radiation.

“The nuclear weapons test legacy is the overriding issue in the Marshall Islands with the United States and it remains a festering problem, because US compensation and medical care and so forth was only partial for what was needed,” Johnson said.

The first compact to free association between the Marshall Islands and the US contained a compensation agreement, including the establishment of a nuclear claims tribunal to adjudicate all claims. While it determined there was a large amount of compensation due to Marshallese on various atolls, this has never been paid out, apart from funding of $150 million in 1986.

Since then, the US has accepted no more liability on nuclear compensation, as the compact resulted in the Marshall Islands being an independent country, able to join the United Nations.

However, Johnson said the United States Congress had taken a different position on this.

“For example, while the US executive branch would say, well the Marshall Islands is in charge of all the former nuclear test sites, the US Congress a few years back passed legislation requiring the US Department of Energy to monitor the Runit Dome, where so much radioactive waste is stored.”

There have also been big differences in the treatment of Marshallese nuclear victims and those in the United States

“The US used Bikini and Enewetak to test its biggest hydrogen bombs,” Johnson said. “While it maintained a nuclear test site in Nevada, it only tested relatively small nuclear devices there, because it simply could not test hydrogen bombs in the continental United States – Americans wouldn’t have stood for it.”

Not long after the 1986 free association compact ended American responsibility for nuclear compensation in the Marshall Islands, the US Congress enacted a radiation compensation act for Americans – which Johnson said really emphasised the unfairness of the situation.

“Long story short, they appropriated $100 million and then they ran out, the US congress appropriated more, again ran out, appropriated more and fast-forward to 2020 and they’re over $2 billion in compensation awarded to American nuclear victims.

“Then the question comes, that if they’re willing to just keep recapitalising the compensation fund for American nuclear victims, why aren’t they able to reinstitute the compensation fund for Marshallese, who were exposed to far more nuclear fallout than the downwinders in Utah and Nevada?”

Johnson also had concerns about the lack of a baseline epidemiological study by the US, following the tests. Studies on the affects of radiation centred around thyroid issues, but many islanders have reported cancer, miscarriages and stillbirths in the years following.

His wife Darlene Keju died of breast cancer, which also affected her mother and father – she grew up on one of the islands in the downwind zone of the tests.

The US had never looked at rates of cancer, or studied the differences between low fallout and high fallout areas, he said.

Johnson hoped the nuclear legacy between the countries could be worked out amicably, but he wasn’t too optimistic.

“The original compensation agreement was negotiated in a period of the Cold War and the US did it in an adversarial way with the Marshall Islands, which had no standing because it wasn’t a country at the time, information was withheld, they didn’t know what they know today, and it needs to be worked out, a suitable decent fair agreement needs to be sorted out.”

Despite this tension, Johnson said the Marshallese did not harbour anti-American sentiment and the compensation issues were a “black mark on an otherwise good relationship” between the two countries.

He said around 30 to 40 percent of all Marshallese were living in the US.

“The Marshall Islands, since WWII, has a very long standing high regard and strong relationship with the US that came out of the end of the Japanese period of militarism and the execution of many islanders and privation, into a period where the US fostered democratic institutions, created opportunities for education, providing scholarships, opening the door to people going to the US and the unpacked treaty really put this together, in terms of the relationship that’s of benefit to both sides.”

However, ongoing tensions between the US and China may help the Marshall Islands in their push for further compensation.

“In the current situation where we have the US continuing to be in an uproar over China … that has elevated the strategic importance of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau – the three north Pacific countries that are all in free association with the US. It does give the Marshall Islands a bit more leverage in negotiating and talking with Washington.

“Possibly the changing geopolitical situation out here might offer an opening to get some interest to try to amicably do something to resolve the whole thing,” Johnson said.

But the nuclear legacy is not the only issue affecting the island – climate change is looming large and reports by US scientists have said that the Marshall Islands could be uninhabitable by the 2030s, due to rising sea levels.

“Because the Marshall Islands has such little land, these are really small islands, it magnifies the importance of land to Marshallese people,” Johnson said. “I think people care about their islands and want to find a way to make them liveable for the long term, but that may depend on the world community to a great extent now.”

December 14, 2020 Posted by | indigenous issues, OCEANIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear power – simply unaffordable for the Philippines

November 7, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Philippines, politics | Leave a comment

Now climate change, rising seas, swamping Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, victims of nuclear racism

Losing paradise,  Atomic racism decimated Kiribati and the Marshall Islands; now climate change is sinking them, Beyond Nuclear   https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/29981415891 Nov 20, This is an extract from the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland report “Nuclear Weapons, the Climate and Our Environment”.

Kiribati.  In 1954, the government of Winston Churchill decided that the UK needed to develop a hydrogen bomb (a more sophisticated and destructive type of nuclear weapon). The US and Russia had already developed an H-bomb and Churchill argued that the UK “could not expect to maintain our influence as a world power unless we possessed the most up-to-date nuclear weapons”.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand refused to allow a hydrogen bomb test to be conducted on their territories so the British government searched for an alternative site. Kiritimati Island and Malden Island in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in the central Pacific Ocean (now the Republic of Kiribati) were chosen. Nine nuclear weapons tests – including the first hydrogen bomb tests – were carried out there as part of “Operation Grapple” between 1957 and 1958.

Military personnel from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji (then a British colony) and Gilbertese labourers were brought in to work on the operation. Many of the service personnel were ordered to witness the tests in the open, on beaches or on the decks of ships, and were simply told to turn their backs and shut their eyes when the bombs were detonated. There is evidence that Fijian forces were given more dangerous tasks than their British counterparts, putting them at greater risk from radiation exposure. The local Gilbertese were relocated and evacuated to British naval vessels during some of the tests but many were exposed to fallout, along with naval personnel and soldiers.

After Grapple X, the UK’s first megaton hydrogen bomb test in November 1957, dead fish washed ashore and “birds were observed to have their feathers burnt off, to the extent that they could not fly”. The larger Grapple Y test in 1958 spread fallout over Kiritimati Island and destroyed large areas of vegetation.

Despite evidence that military personnel and local people suffered serious health problems as a result of the tests, including blindness, cancers, leukaemia and reproductive difficulties, the British government has consistently denied that they were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and has resisted claims for compensation.

Like the Marshall Islands, the low-lying Republic of Kiribati is now bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change. Salt water washed in on king tides has contaminated the islands’ scarce freshwater resources. Pits that are used to grow taro plants have been ruined and the healthy subsistence lifestyle of local people is under threat.

It is predicted that rising sea levels will further impact freshwater resources and reduce the amount of agricultural land, while storm damage and erosion will increase. Much of the land will ultimately be submerged. In anticipation of the need to relocate its entire population, the government of Kiribati bought 20km2 of land on Fiji in 2014.

The UK is set to spend £3.4 billion a year on Trident nuclear weapons system between 2019 and 2070. If Trident were scrapped, a portion of the savings could be provide to the Republic of Kiribati in the form of climate finance (see section 1.2.1). Scrapping Trident would also allow money and skills to be redirected towards measures aimed at drastically cutting the UK’s carbon emissions (see section 1.2.2) – action that Pacific island nations are urgently demanding.

The Marshall Islands.  The most devasting incident of radioactive contamination took place 8,000 km from the US mainland during the Castle Bravo test in 1954. The US detonated the largest nuclear weapon in its history at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, causing fallout to spread over an area of more than 11,000km. Residents of nearby atolls, Rongelap and Utirik, were exposed to high levels of radiation, suffering burns, radiation sickness, skin lesions and hair loss as a result.

Castle Bravo was just one of 67 nuclear weapons tests conducted by the US in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. Forty years after the tests, the cervical cancer mortality rate for women of the Marshall Islands was found to be 60 times greater than the rate for women in the US mainland, while breast and lung cancer rates were five and three times greater respectively. High rates of infant mortality have also been found in the Marshall Islands and a legacy of birth defects and infertility has been documented. Many Marshallese were relocated by the US to make way for the testing.

Some were moved to Rongelap Atoll and relocated yet again after the fallout from Castle Bravo left the area uninhabitable.

Rongelap Atoll was resettled in 1957 after the US government declared that the area was safe. However, many of those who returned developed serious health conditions and the entire population was evacuated by Greenpeace in 1984. An attempt to resettle Bikini Atoll was similarly abandoned in 1978 after it became clear that the area was still unsafe for human habitation.

A 2019 peer-reviewed study found levels of the radioactive isotope caesium-137 in fruits taken from some parts of Bikini and Rongelap to be significantly higher than levels recorded at the sites of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Compounding the injustice of nuclear weapons testing, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is now on the frontline of the climate emergency. The government declared a national climate crisis in 2019, citing the nation’s extreme vulnerability to rising sea levels and the “implications for the security, human rights and wellbeing of the Marshallese people”.

At Runit Island, one of 40 islands in the Enewetak Atoll, rising sea levels are threatening to release radioactive materials into an already contaminated lagoon. In the late 1970s, the US army dumped 90,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, including plutonium, into a nuclear blast crater and covered it with a concrete cap. Radioactive materials are leaking out of the crater and cracks have appeared on the concrete cap. Encroaching salt water caused by rising sea levels could collapse the structure altogether. The Marshallese government has asked the US for help to prevent an environmental catastrophe but the US maintains that the dome is the Marshall Islands’ responsibility. Hilda Heine, then President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said of the dome in 2019: “We don’t want it. We didn’t build it. The garbage inside is not ours. It’s theirs.”

The Runit Island dome offers a stark illustration of the ways in which the injustices of nuclear weapons testing and climate change overlap. Marshall Islanders were left with the toxic legacy of nuclear weapons testing conducted on their territory by another state. The country is now being forced to deal with the effects of a climate crisis that they did not create, including the erosion of the Runit dome.

The nations that contributed most to the crisis are failing to cut their emissions quickly enough to limit further global heating, leaving the Marshallese at the mercy of droughts, cyclones and rising seas. A recent study found that if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, the Marshall Islands will be flooded with sea water annually from 2050. The resulting damage to infrastructure and contamination of freshwater supplies will render the islands uninhabitable.

If the US scrapped its nuclear weapons programme, it could give a portion of the billions of dollars that would be saved to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to help the country mitigate and adapt to climate disruption (see section 1.2.1 on international climate finance). The US could also use the freed-up funds to invest in its own Just Transition away from a fossil-fuel powered economy.   Read the full report.

November 2, 2020 Posted by | climate change, environment, history, OCEANIA, Reference, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A bit of good news – Chameleon last seen a century ago rediscovered in Madagascar

October 31, 2020 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Pacific islands demand truth on the decades of nuclear testing, now that nuclear weapons are becoming illegal

Guardian 25th Oct 2020, Now that nuclear weapons are illegal, the Pacific demands truth on decades of testing. Nuclear weapons will soon be illegal. Just over 75 years since their devastation was first unleashed on the world, the global community has rallied to bring into force a ban through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Late on Saturday night in New York, the 50th country – the central American nation of Honduras – ratified the treaty. It will become international law in 90 days. For many across the Pacific region, this is a momentous achievement and one that has been long called
for. Over the second half of the 20th century 315 nuclear weapons tests were conducted by so-called “friendly” or colonising forces in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Australia and Maohi Nui (French Polynesia).

The United States, Britain and France used largely colonised lands to testtheir nuclear weapons, leaving behind not only harmful physical legacies but psychological and political scars as well. Survivors of these tests and their descendants have continued to raise their voices against these weapons. They are vocal resisters and educators, the reluctant but intense knowledge holders of the nuclear reality of our region.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/25/now-that-nuclear-weapons-are-the-pacific-demands-truth-on-decades-of-testing

October 26, 2020 Posted by | OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Tuvalu – the 47th nation to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

October 15, 2020 Posted by | OCEANIA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment