Draft Briefing Paper

R. Ray


FTS 575-3553



Request of the Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary has received a request (Tab A) from Interior Secretary
William Clark for advice regarding the possible resettlement of Bikini
people on eneu Island in their home Atoll. in 1979, the DOE response to a
similar request led to a decision by then Under Secretary of the [nterior

James Joseph to place Eneu Island “off limits as a place of residence for
the Bikini people for at least another 20-25 years" (Tab B). In view of
recent developments, some of which are discussed below, a prompt review and
response to Secretary Clark is in order.

The people of Bikini Atoll (167 persons) were removed from their atoll by
the United States in i946 to permit Bikini lands and waters to be used for
atmospheric nuclear testing. Having been relocated to areas which were
remote from the testing sites, the people sustained no significant
radiation exposures from the tests, but their home islands, and especially
the main residence island, Bikini, were contaminated with radioactive test
debris. After a cleanup and rehabilitation program and the release of the
atoll from further U.S. use, a small number of Bikinians (about 140 of the
Current population of about 1100) resettled Bikini Island during the period
1969-1978. DOr continued to monitor the Bikini environment and the
resettled Bikinians during this period. By the mid 1970's, as locally
grown foods became increasingly available, and as DOE studies established

the importance of the food chain as the dominant contributor to radiation

dose, DOE surveillance was intensified.

Early in 1978, it became evident that under the conditions then existing at
Bikini Island the resettled residents would not be expected to stay within
the U.S. Federal guidelines for exposure to radiation. This led to the
second relocation of Bikinians from their atoll in August i976.
Recognizing the strong desire of the Bikini people to return to their
homeland, the two departments (DOE and DOI) considered in 1979 whether Eneu
Island, a somewhat smaller island in Bikini Atoll, six miles distant from
Bikini, might be suitable for resettlement.

On April 12, 1979, Under Secretary Joseph wrote to then Assistant Secretary

of Energy Ruth Clusen and, in Secretary Joseph's words "...insisted that a
definitive statement on the use of Eneu Island, Bikini Atoll, was an

absolute necessity..."

Secretary Clusen replied on May 15, 1979, with a

lengthy and detailed analysis of the Eneu situation and, although she did

not make a Categorical or definitive recommendation, her letter left the
Vepartnent of the Interior little choice but to take a conservative
position on Eneu resettlement. The wording of Secretary Joseph's
decision--"off limits...for...2U-25 years"-~may be viewed as somewhat
stronger than was justified, but is understandable, considering the popular
sensitivities and apprehensions regarding radiation matters.


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