Bikini Atoll nuclear test: 60 years later and islands still unliveable


ATOMIC AGE: Angel Food

 
In Washington last week, at the Army War College's sumptuous officers' club, two admirals and their wives gave a little party to commemorate the dissolution of Joint Army-Navy Task Force No. i, which staged Operation Crossroads at Bikini. An East St. Louis (111.) group of bakers sent a cake, made out of tiny angel-food puffs, in the shape of an atomic explosion. Vice Admiral W.H.P. ("Spike")
Blandy, Crossroads commander, and Mrs. Blandy were photographed gaily cutting the cake, while Rear Admiral F. J. Lowry stood happily by (see cut). The picture made the Washington Post's society page.


The Marshall Islands are marking 60 years since the devastating US hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, with exiled islanders saying they are too fearful to ever go back because of nuclear contamination.

Part of the intense cold war nuclear arms race, the 15-megatonne Bravo test on 1 March 1954 was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.

Bikini islanders and their descendants have lived in exile since they were moved for the first weapons tests in 1946. When US government scientists declared Bikini safe for resettlement some residents were allowed to return in the early 1970s. But they were removed again in 1978 after ingesting high levels of radiation from eating foods grown on the former nuclear test site.


The Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2bn in personal injury and land damage claims arising form the nuclear tests but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

As those who remembered the day gathered in the Marshall Islands’ capital of Majuro, along with younger generations, to commemorate the anniversary, many exiles refused to go back to the zones that were contaminated despite US safety assurances.

“I won’t move there,” said Evelyn Ralpho-Jeadrik of her home atoll, Rongelap, which was engulfed in fallout from Bravo and evacuated two days after the test. “I do not believe it’s safe and I don’t want to put my children at risk.”


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