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Bikinians are nuclear nomads becauseof a U.S. bungle
By Jonathan M. Weisgail


L.A. Times/Washington Post
News Service

hirty years ago the United
States detonated the Bravo hy-

drogen bomb teat at tiny Bikini Atoll
in the Marshall Islands.
Bravo, with an explosive force
equal to nearly 1,000 Hiroshima-type

tive particles. Fallout also showered a
Japanese fishing beat that was 80

“there is no reason to expect any
permanentafter effects on the gener-

The 23 crew members suffered severe
radiation sickness, and one died sev-

percent of the Rongelapese suffered

milea from the point of detonation.
en months later.

Under a 1947 trusteeship agree-

al health of these people.” In fact, 90

skin lesions and loas of hair; many

later developed thyroid tumors or


— APprse %

other radiation-related illnesses, and
there has been one leukemia death.
— The “unpredicted” wind shift
United States agreed to “protect the .
atomic bombe, was the largest man- health” of the islands’ inhabitants occurred siz hours before the blast.
made explosion in the history of the and to “protect (them) against the According to a recently released reworld, more than twice what its deport by the U.S. Defense Nuclear
loss of their lends and resources.”
signers expected. It vaporized the But recent disclosures raise serious Agency, the weather review showed
entire test island and parte of two queations about U.S. treatment of winds “headed for Rongelap and to
others, and sucked them 20 miles. the Marshallese and their lands:
the east,” and “it was recognized that .
into the air.
(two of Bikini’s islands) would be
—~ Twelve days after the March 1

Moreover, what wae described
falsely ae an “unpredicted” shift in
wind sent the fallout eastward over
Bikini Island and 240 miles beyond,
sprinkling the 236 inhabitants of
Rongelap and Utirik with radicac-

ment with the United Nations, the

explosion the Atomic Energy Com-

contaminated.” In other words, the

posed to some radioactivity ... all
were reported well.” Four months
later the commission reported that

The Marshaliess submitted a moving petition to the U.N. Trusteeship

mission announged that although the
islanders were “unexpectedly ez-

United States deliberately detonated
Bravo knowing that it would cuntaminate land —~ and people.

Council in April 1954 “regarding the

explosion of lethal weapons within
our homeislands.” Marshallese leaders noted that the people of Rongelap
and Utirik were suffering from low-

ered blood counts, burns, nausea and
toss of hair.
The explosion set off enormous

public debate here and abroad on
nuclear testing and fallout. Americans did not understand the magnitude of this new “H-bomb” until
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
told a newa conference in late March
that U.S. scientists were “surprised
and astonished” at the results of the
At a March 31 press conference,
Lewie L. Strauss, Atomio Energy

Commission chairman, casually
mentioned that the hydrogen bomb

could destroy a city the size of New

York. By April the White House was

receiving more than 100 letters and
telegrams each day calling for a stop

effort, but without it the Bikinians:

would have to wait about 100 years
before radiation is at a safe level. |

to all atomic testing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Marshall Eisenhower privately ordered a - Islands governments have negotiated test-ban study, and four years later
the United States did impose a moratorium on atmospheric nucleartest-

ing. Then in 1963 the United States
and the Soviet Union agreed to ban

all atmospheric nuclear tests.
Sadly, however, due to the Bravo
test and 22 others conducted on their

islands, the people of Bikini have

become nuclear nomads more than
38 years after we “temporarily” evacuated them. An inquiry ordered by
Congress and conducted by a panel
of leading scientists has tentatively
concluded that Bikini can be cleaned
up — at a cost of up to $120 million.

The administration opposes such an

a new political relationship that will

provide some compensation to the:

islanders, but that also would termi-nate all claims in any way related to”
the U.S. nuclear-testing program in’ ~
the Pacific.

The United States wants to write a”
check and close the books on its nu-*
clear legacy in the Pacific, leaving 4

thousand Bikiniana hundreds of
miles — and 100 years — away from

the home that they left to make
room for Bravo.


Jonathan M. Weisgail, a Washing:
ton lawyer, is the legal counsel for’
the peopie of Bikini.





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