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March 10, 2016 @ 3:31 pm

Ep. 236 “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Testing Legacy Continues to Reverberate in the Marshall Islands”

Ep. 236 “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Testing Legacy Continues to Reverberate in the Marshall Islands” (hosted by Giff Johnson and produced by Tom Maxedon with assistance from Alan Grossman) was recorded by Jack Neidenthal in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, on 2/18/16 and aired 3/4/16.       

In recognition of Nuclear Survivors Remembrance Day (March 1) in the Marshall Islands, this episode features Bikini Islander Lani Kramer and Ailuk Islander Rosania Bennettexplaining how the traumatic events sixty-to-seventy years ago continue to impact daily life for many Marshall Islanders today.

Rosania and Lani are founding members, and President and Treasurer, respectively, of a new organization Radiation Exposure Awareness Crusaders of Humanity — Marshall Islands (REACH-MI) [emailinfo@reach-mi.org / ].  The group was formed in late 2015 to both raise awareness locally of the history and legacy of the 67 U.S. nuclear weapons tests conducted at Bikini and Enewetak atolls from 1946 to 1958 and to reach out to the American people to help promote Marshall Islanders’ claims for justice with the U.S. Congress.

A total of 167 Bikini Islanders were relocated 70 years ago in March to make way for the first post-World War II nuclear weapons tests. The March 1 national holiday in the Marshall Islands is the 62nd anniversary of the 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini, the largest H-bomb at 15 megatons ever tested by the U.S.  It spewed radioactive contamination across many inhabited islands in the Marshall Islands.

Today, Bikinis and Rongelap Islanders still cannot live safely on their home atolls and while Enewetak Islanders moved back to the southern islands in their atoll in 1980, the northern half of Enewetak is still not safe for habitation and use. The U.S. government only acknowledges four atolls as being nuclear test-affected, despite the fact that declassified U.S. government reports show many more inhabited islands in the region were exposed to fallout not only from Bravo but other hydrogen bombs tested at Bikini. Only the four atolls recognized by the U.S. as nuclear test affected — Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik — receive medical care and compensation. 

The ongoing exile of islanders from their home atolls remains problematic for many islanders, as does the lack of medical care and compensation for people from outside of the “four atolls.” These issues are covered in detail in this interview with Rosania and Lani.

This U.S. nuclear legacy and claims for reparative justice continue in Guam as well. Since 2005, the Guam Legislature has passed six resolutions for the U.S. Congress to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 (RECA) to include Guam as 'downwinders' and to improve and increase compensation for those affected by ionizing radiation caused by nuclear testing in Nevada and the Marshall Islands.  

Guest host Giff Johnson edits the weekly Marshall Islands Journal in Majuro and is a regular contributor to several regional news media. He is a writer, journalist and author of Don’t Ever Whisper - Darlene Keju, Pacific Health Pioneer, Champion for Nuclear Survivors (2013), a biography about his late wife. His other books include Collision on Course at Kwajalein:  Marshall Islanders in the Shadow of the Bomb (1984), Nuclear Past, Unclear Future (2009) and Idyllic No More: Pacific Island Climate, Corruption and Development Dilemmas.

This interview was recorded by Jack Neidenthal, Trust Liaison for the People of Bikini Atoll, filmmaker, and founder of Microwave Films for the Marshall Islands. 

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