Bikini Atoll nuclear test: 60 years later and islands still unliveable via The Guardian

Marshall Islanders unable or unwilling to return to traditional home, scene of huge US hydrogen bomb test in 1954


US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958 after 67 tests. But a United Nations report in 2012 said the effects were long-lasting. Special rapporteur Calin Georgescu, in a report to the UN human rights council, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

The report called for the US to provide extra compensation to settle claims by nuclear-affected Marshall islanders and end a “legacy of distrust”.

It is not just their homes that have been lost, said Lani Kramer, 42, a councilwoman in Bikini’s local government, but an entire swathe of the islands’ culture. “As a result of being displaced we’ve lost our cultural heritage – our traditional customs and skills, which for thousands of years were passed down from generation to generation,” she said.

“After they were exposed like that I can never trust what the US tells us [about Bikini],” said Kramer, adding that she wants justice for the generations forced to leave.


Also attending the week-long commemorations was 80-year-old Matashichi Oishi – one of 23 fishermen aboard the Japanese boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon), which was 60 miles from the bomb when it exploded. “I remember the brilliant flash in the west, the frightening sound that followed, and the extraordinary sky which turned red as far as I could see,” he said.

The plight of the crew is well known in Japan and on Saturday nearly 2,000 people marched to the grave of Aikichi Kuboyama – the chief radio operator of the boat – in the port city of Yaizu to mark the anniversary. Kuboyama died of acute organ malfunction nearly seven months after the test, while 15 other crew members later died of cancer and other causes.

The Marshall Islands’ president, Christopher Loeak, called on the US to resolve the “unfinished business” of its nuclear testing legacy, saying compensation provided by Washington “does not provide a fair and just settlement” for the damage caused.

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