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News > World

U.S. 'Dome' of Nuclear Waste in Enewetak Atoll Wreaking Havoc on Indigenous People

  • The Runit Dome on Enewetak atoll stores plutonium leftover from atomic/ nuclear testing, leaking.

    The Runit Dome on Enewetak atoll stores plutonium leftover from atomic/ nuclear testing, leaking. | Photo: Wikipedia

Published 3 December 2017

"Four of Enewetak’s 40 islands were completely vaporized by the tests," ABC News' Mark Willacy stated.

One of U.S.' nuclear waste sites, located in Enewetak Atoll, west of the Marshall Islands, which is halfway between Australia and Hawaii and home to a small population of Indigenous people is being submerged leading to leaks from the buried toxic waste, Australia's ABC News reported. 

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The U.S. started using Runit Island, one of the many islands on Enewetak Atoll as a nuclear dumpsite as early as 1940's and 1950's, nearly 43 atomic bombs were detonated around the island chain in the 1940s and 50s, after conducting a series of atomic explosions, the U.S. government finally started covering its act in the late 1970's., covering the main site  with a concrete vault the size of an Australian football stadium, and referred to as "the dome" which is essentially a large disc of nearly 85,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste. 

"Four of Enewetak’s 40 islands were completely vaporized by the tests, with one thermonuclear blast leaving a two-kilometer-wide crater where an island had been just moments before," ABC News' Mark Willacy noted in his investigative piece. 

But lately, the dome that is unmarked and unguarded has shown some visible signs of tear as noticeable cracks have been seen on the dome’s surface with brackish liquid pools around its rim.

“That dome is the connection between the nuclear age and the climate change age,” Marshall Islands climate change activist Alson Kelen told Australia's ABC news. 

"It'll be a very devastating event if it really leaks," he said. "We're not just talking the Marshall Islands, we're talking the whole Pacific," Keslon added. 

“I’m persuaded that the radiation outside the dome is as bad as the radiation inside the dome,” Michael Gerrard, the chair of Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York, an expert on the region, said. 

Adding Enewetak "is at the intersection of two of the biggest problems of the last century and this century, nuclear weapons and sea level rise. It's important to recognize that the Marshall Islands are doubly screwed," Gerrard said. 

Some of the waste buried underneath the dome includes debris of plutonium-239, a fissile isotope and one of the most toxic substances on earth that has a half-life of 24,000 years which is used in nuclear reactors. 

"Already the sea sometimes washes over [the dome] in a large storm," Gerrard said. "The United States Government has acknowledged that a major typhoon could break it apart and cause all of the radiation in it to disperse."

"They were the site of nuclear explosions by the U.S., and one of the things that they left behind was this nuclear dome and the other thing is the country is going underwater because of greenhouse gas emissions for which the U.S. is major contributor," he said. 

The US Department of Energy has also banned exports of fish and copra from Enewetak because of the ongoing contamination, leaving the island on a dose of canned goods imports, which critics have pointed out has lead to diseases like diabetes among the Indigenous people in the region. 

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