' Direct and Outside Influences on the

Psychological Health of a Marshall Island
Population Exposed to Radioactive Fallout
Robert A. Conard

Senior Scientist, Retired

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Upton, New York


In 1954, a serious fallout accident occurred during the U.S. Atomic

Testing Program at Bikini in the Marshall Islands. Following the detonation
of a large thermonuclear device, an unexpected shift in winds resulted in
significant fallout exposure of 250 Marshallese, 28 American servicemen on

atoils to the east, and 23 Japanese fishermen on their-vessel the Lucky
Dragon. The people on the exposed islands were evacuated to a naval base
at Kwajalein Atoll, where an emergency medical team, organized by the U.S.

Navy at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), carried out

initial examinations on the exposed people.’ At the end_of the examinations,
the U.S. Army continued the examinations of the servicemen in Hawaii. The

island of Utink was considered safe for habitation at that time, and the

people were returned to live there. However, Rongelap Island was too
contaminated, and these people were moved to a temporary village at Majuro
Atoll. In 1957, Rongelap was considered safe for habitation, and the people
were moved back to a new village that had been constructed for them. The
Japanese vessel returned to Japan, where the fishermen received treatment.
Repercussions from the accident have been widespread. This report

concerns some of the complex problems that developed in the aftermath of

in contrast to the irradiation of the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
much of which was caused by direct exposure to atomic detonations, the
exposure of the Marshallese was caused entirely by fallout. To the people on
Copynght 199) by Elsevier Science Publishing Company, Inc.
The Medial Basis for Radiation- Accident Preparedness, I!

Pome on ej



the accident that influenced the psychological impact on the people’s
exposure from fallout. The report is based largely on the author’s experiences
during the 26 years that he visited the islands with medical teams to examine
and care for the exposed Marshallese people.
A brief review of the principal medical findings is presented below for
background purposes. The findings have been published in detail in
Brookhaven National Laboratory reports and in medical journals.
Comprehensive reviews can be found in References 1-6, which refer to other
reports as well.

Select target paragraph3