Between the years 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted lots of nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands, for those who are not familiar are part of a collection of islands that form what is known as Micronesia.
Because of this nuclear testing, the people who lived in the Marshall Islands were not able to return to their homes for 30 long years. Most of the testing was carried out on Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll, these are areas located in-between Australia and Hawaii. After testing was completed there was an enormous amount of radioactive waste left over. Radioactive waste, as you may have noticed is something the United States is not good at dealing with.
The United States government did ‘what they could’ in attempt to clean up the Pacific location, and of course, did the minimal amount and in an attempt to push the wool over the eyes of those who cared. The United States Army actually ended up building something known as the Runit Dome in an attempt to contain the waste. This dome was built because the United States could not get approval to outright dump the waste into the ocean. After ten years of an ‘attempted’ clean up the US Congress was ready to wash their hands of this mess, they no longer wanted to take the time to make the area habitable again either. While the Marshallese government signed a deal on this they really didn’t have much choice as the privileges they were given were necessary for survival.
The United States chose Runit Island to store their radioactive debris because the area already contained a huge crater that was the result of a test performed in 1958. They built a concrete dome inside the crater and filled it with soil that was contaminated by plutonium as well as almost 500 bags of plutonium, and made a concrete top for it as well.
Locals refer to this dome as ‘The Tomb.’ Upon inspection in 2013, it was noted the dome has been and will continue to decay. The groundwater is radioactive and sand has made its way into the structure. There are quite a few concerning cracks in the dome and the list goes on. This dome, if nothing is done, will eventually be underwater or possibly destroyed by storms depending on how things play out. If this happens radioactive material WILL leech into the ocean.
“Catastrophic failure of the concrete dome and instantaneous release of all its contents into the lagoon will not necessarily lead to any significant change in the radiation dose delivered to the local resident population.”
Yes, apparently the soil around the dome is already so much more contaminated than the waste inside the dome that no one cares what happens to it at this point. The locals who were finally able to return home came back to land that could not grow food, and they were living in pretty much unlivable conditions. Locals live off of what little money they receive from a US trust fund, and are hardly able to support themselves.
Initially, this dome was supposed to be a temporary fix. The US government decided in 1983 that the Runit dome was the burden of the Marshallese government, and the agreement was made as mentioned above. Meaning, the United States left it up to people, who clearly do not have the capacity to implement any sort of solution for this US caused problem, to merely ‘live with it.’ The soil surrounding the dome itself is already becoming more and more radioactive, this is obviously becoming a big issue. Officials have even found plutonium in the Sea of China that was successfully traced back to the Marshall Islands.
As this leeches over time bioaccumulation will happen. Sure, this is an issue far enough away for most to forget about, but it is still a crisis. This radioactive poison WILL be released into the ocean if we continue to ignore it. For more information please take the time to check out the video below.