[ RadSafe ] Bikini islanders sceptical of plans to clean up atol

Dawson, Fred Mr Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk
Thu Jun 29 03:19:26 CDT 2006

New Scientist reports Bikini islanders sceptical of plans to clean up


Already victims of one nuclear experiment, the people of Bikini Atoll
are understandably reluctant to get involved in another. The islanders
are sceptical of the latest plans to reduce the dangers of a homeland
beset with radioactive contamination.
The US evicted all 167 residents of the central Pacific atoll in 1946
and tested 23 nuclear bombs in the area over the subsequent 12 years.
The largest of these blasts was a 15 megaton test on 1 March 1954,
code-named Bravo. The atoll was badly contaminated by fallout.
To encourage the remaining islanders and their descendants to return,
scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California
have been investigating ways to prevent the caesium-137 in the soil from
accumulating in the islanders' food.
They discovered that applying potassium fertiliser to soil reduces
20-fold the amount of caesium-137 taken up by coconut trees. The effect
lasts for up to 10 years, they say in the Journal of Environmental
Radioactivity (vol 88, p 251). "It would be hard to overstate the
importance of this assurance to returning populations," the researchers
That is not, however, how surviving Bikinians see it. According to their
representative, Jack Niedenthal, treatment with potassium would still
leave much of the island contaminated beyond US radiation safety limits.
"This still looks too much like an experiment to most of the islanders,"
he told New Scientist.

Fred Dawson
Health Physics Assistant Director & Team Leader
Directorate of Safety & Claims
6-D-30 MOD Main Building
Whitehall, LONDON  SW1A 2HB

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