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article imageUS atomic waste dump in Marshall Islands to be investigated

By Karen Graham     Dec 31, 2019 in Environment
The U.S. Congress has ordered an investigation into the so-called “Runit Dome,” a concrete dome containing contaminated radioactive debris left over from nuclear weapons tests.
Enewetak Atoll is a large coral atoll of 40 islands in the Pacific Ocean and forms a legislative district of the Ralik Chain of the Marshall Islands. However, only three islands along Enewetak Atoll’s slender rim are considered safe enough for human habitation.
This is because the United States detonated 43 nuclear bombs around the island chain from April 14, 1948, until August 18, 1958, with five of the tests taking place on Runit Island, a small island in the Enewatak Atoll.
A 15 kiloton nuclear weapon exploded but did not undergo nuclear fission on Runit, scattering plutonium-239 over the island. Runit Island is not habitable for the next 24,000 years, which is why it was chosen for the nuclear waste repository. (Wargo, John. Green Intelligence: Creating Environments That Protect Human Health. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009, p. 15).
The low-lying Marshall Islands will drown beneath rising seas if global warming continues unabated
The low-lying Marshall Islands will drown beneath rising seas if global warming continues unabated
Today, because of rising sea levels, many islands in the Marshall Island chain are now uninhabitable. On Runit Island, cracks are visible on the concrete dome’s surface and brackish liquid pools are evident around its rim. The 377 feet (115 meters) protective dome is so large it is easily visible in Google Maps.
A number of investigations into the deterioration of the dome have been done recently, including one in 2014 by Professor Michael Gerrard, with Columbia University. He wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times about his visit and concerns - particularly about the possibility of the dome being breached by a powerful storm.
Gerard wrote: "But a 2013 report sponsored by the Department of Energy saw no reason to worry. “Catastrophic failure of the concrete dome,” it said, “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.”
Test Bravo  a 15-megaton nuclear detonation 1 000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped o...
Test Bravo, a 15-megaton nuclear detonation 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was detonated on Bikini atoll.
United States Department of Energy
An investigative report by the Los Angeles Times in November 2019 reignited fears of the Dome cracking and releasing radioactive material into the soil and surrounding water.
The LA Times report also revealed evidence of biological weapons tests and the shipping of 130 tons of soil from nuclear testing grounds in Nevada to the Marshall Islands, according to the BBC.
U.S. troops returned to the Marshall Islands to work on radiation cleanup from 1972 to 1980. On the ...
U.S. troops returned to the Marshall Islands to work on radiation cleanup from 1972 to 1980. On the island of Runit, radioactive materials were mixed with cement and buried in a blast crater, which later was sealed under an 18-inch-thick concrete dome.
Lawrence Livermore National Lab
DOE has six months to report back to Congress
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, otherwise known as the 2020 defense budget, directs the DOE to investigate "the status of the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands" and the dangers posed by potential leaks. The DOE is also directed to come up with "a detailed plan to repair the dome to ensure that it does not have any harmful effects to the local population, environment, or wildlife, including the projected costs of implementing such plan."
Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is required to report back to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by mid-June on the risks that Runit Dome poses to the people, environment, and wildlife of Enewetak lagoon - as well as a plan of action to mediate the risks.
According to the law, the energy agency must submit a report that includes an “assessment of how rising sea levels might affect the dome," even though the words "climate change" were stricken from the bill, according to
More about The Tomb, Marshall Islands, Nuclear waste, Sea level rise, deterioration
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