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The lingering legacy of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands via New Zealand Herald


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.


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