From 1946 to 1958, the government of the United States of America tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Archipelago, whose best-known island is Bikini, in whose atoll 23 nuclear tests were carried out, and the other 44 tests were carried out on the Enewetak and Atoll atolls. runit.
The last (known) nuclear test was on May 6, 1958, with a bomb similar to that of Hiroshima, leaving a crater 20 meters wide and 9 meters deep on Runit Atoll.
The place was called “Ground Zero of the South Pacific”, due to its high radioactive power.
The inhabitants of the contaminated islands were relocated to other islands and, to mitigate their “guilt”, the American government recognized the independence of Marshall on May 1, 1979, giving them 23,000 million dollars in “compensation”. International legality was given on December 22, 1990, when the United Nations recognized the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Cleaning up the Trash
In 1975 the US Department of Defense studied how to clean up at least part of the contaminated land to make it habitable. concluding that cesium-137 and strontium-90 had a half-life of about 30 years, while later acknowledging that the explosions also left behind plutonium-239, which has a half-life of 24,000 years.
For this reason, in 1977, the US Senate approved the construction of a dome to store radioactive “waste”, “taking advantage” of the crater on Runit Island, which was filled with 73,000 m³ of radioactive waste, collected from all the atolls that were used for the evidence.
The Dome is a hemispherical structure at sea level, in the north of the island of Runit, with a thickness of 46 cm of concrete that the Marshallese call: “Great monument to American clumsiness”.
Unlike Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which is supposed to be designed to withstand at least a million years, the Runit Dome doesn’t even meet standards for household garbage dumps, with even the National Research Council warning in 1982 that a severe typhoon could break the dome.
For this reason, the American government completed a deep cleaning of the plutonium in 2012, assuring that a leak from the dome would not be a threat since more than 30 years have passed and the contaminants are harmless.
In fact, isotopes of plutonium were found in the South China Sea a few years ago, and were traced to the Marshall Islands, about 2,800 miles away.
Each inspection by environmental agencies uncovers new decay, confirming that the radioactive groundwater below rises and falls with the tides, adding that vines grow in the walls, cracking the structure.
In the south of the state of Washington , the government built the B-109 deposit, which is part of the Hanford complex, and contains almost 500 tons of radioactive waste. It was built during the Manhattan Project to receive the waste nuclear from weapons produced between 1946 and 1976.
Despite the fact that multimillion-dollar figures were spent for decades to carry out environmental cleanups, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency notified about a leak in the tank. The Department of Energy tried to minimize this latest complaint, with an explanation that leaves many doubts… “mitigation efforts have been carried out for decades to protect employees, the public and the environment”
In reality, nuclear power plants produce waste daily, perhaps less polluting than in the last century, so it begs the questions : What to do with them?,and how to contain the increasing radioactive leaks from these power plants, such as the one in Chernobyl?
Cesar Leo Marcus was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Doctor (PhD) in International Logistics and Foreign Trade, and Master (MBA) in Economic Sociology, he was professor of both chairs at the Universities of Madrid (Spain) and Cordoba (Argentina).
A journalist, he publishes in newspapers in California, Miami, and New York. He is a writer, he published twelve books, and a literary editor, director of Windmills Editions. He currently resides in California.