Toxic Time Bomb: Abandoned US Military Nuclear Dome Threatens Pacific Ocean

On the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii, the US military hides a dirty secret. These islands (specifically Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll) were used for nuclear weapons testing throughout the Cold War, and a terrible legacy still survives.

A staggering 67 atomic bombs were detonated on Enewetak and Bikini between 1946 and 1958. This equates to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs exploding every single day during this 12-year period. The Marshall Islands were chosen as the location because of their relative isolation from sprawling metropolises, although local people were forcibly evacuated from their land and are still suffering to this day.

Plutonium-239, used to make nuclear warheads, was ‘splattered’ all over the island. It has a half-life of 24,000 years. Other bombs didn’t detonate as planned. After the Cold War, the US military found itself with an urgent problem: what to do with all this radioactive waste? They wanted to dump it in the ocean, but luckily, environmental regulations prohibited them from doing so. Taking the toxic plutonium back to the USA wasn’t something the government were keen to do, so a ‘temporary’ solution was brainstormed.

Half-buried in the sand on Enewetak Atoll sits a giant concrete dome called Runit Dome. Locals know it as The Tomb. It has an ominous, eerie look to it, out of place in the beautiful surroundings of a tropical island. Here lies the US military’s radioactive plutonium, buried inside a cement dome at sea level.

In 1979, the nuclear waste was mixed with contaminated soil from the island and tipped into a 350-foot-deep crater. This was then topped with concrete, and abandoned. Scientists are now warning that rising sea levels caused by climate change could cause 111,000 cubic yards of radioactive waste to spill into the ocean. It’s not a question of if, it’s just a question of when.

In 1983, the Marshallese signed a deal with the USA which (among other things) left this small government in charge of The Tomb. They simply can’t afford the millions of dollars needed to deal with the USA’s mess, so for now, there is no easy solution in sight. This short video from the GroundTruth project in collaboration with the Guardian introduces this shocking issue. Please share and consider doing anything you can to put pressure on Obama to fund a permanent plan to protect the Pacific Ocean from further devastation.

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