“You know what our decontamination process was back then? They (higher-ups) told us to jump in the ocean to wash ourselves off – that was our decontamination process.” – Robert Celestial, advocate for radiation survivors
Radiation compensation advocate Robert Celestial said this year could be promising for Guam radiation survivors and veterans exposed to U.S. atomic bomb testing decades ago.
Earlier this year, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo introduced Bill 197, which adds Guam to the list of “downwind states” included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA.
The measure, among many things, fully funds the medical expenses of people suffering from radiation exposure linked to the Department of Defense’s radioactive bomb tests in the continental U.S. and the Pacific.
Locally, Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje is pushing just compensation for affected people through two separate resolutions that support the Senate’s Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Party Act, and the FOSTERS Act, which would provide Agent Orange status to Vietnam War-era veterans and civilians.
Between 1946 and 1962, the U.S. conducted 67 reported nuclear bomb tests in the Marshall Islands, east of Guam.
Celestial has also documented jet streams flowing from the Marshall Islands to Guam during that time, which carried radiation toward the Marianas.
Guam was also a stopping point for U.S. Navy ships coming from the Marshall Islands after detonations to decontaminate, according to Celestial.
“Our island and our people – were undoubtedly exposed,” Celestial said at the National Association of Social Workers conference on March 29.
The Army veteran has first-hand experience with nuclear radiation.
Between 1977 and 1980, Celestial, alongside other Pacific Islander and Asian Army personnel, helped fill the U.S. military’s Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands with nuclear waste and affected debris.