On the tiny pacific Ocean atoll of Enewetak, the United States has begun a major cleanup programme to rid the islands of radioactive waste, caused by ten years of nuclear testing.
On the tiny pacific Ocean atoll of Enewetak, the United States has begun a major cleanup programme to rid the islands of radioactive waste, caused by ten years of nuclear testing. The United States used the atoll, which forms part of the Marshall Islands, as a test range for 43 nuclear devices between 1948 and 1958. Severe ecological damage resulted on many islands. Now the U.S. government wants to restore the atoll so that its original inhabitants, who were evacuated before the tests, can return.
SYNOPSIS: About the only people to have been welcomed at Enewetak International Airport recently were the 500 men from the American 84th Engineer Battalion from Hawaii, who've been given the responsibility of cleaning the atoll up.
Worst affected is Runit Island, which bore the brunt of 19 nuclear explosions. Although deceptively tranquil, the island is still a wasteland of radioactive debris and soil. Captain Charles Day, one of the task force leaders, is busy with his colleagues testing the degree of remaining radioactivity on the island. To make the islands in the atoll safe, more than two hundred thousand tons (tonnes) of contaminated soil will have to be stripped along with thousand of tons(tonnes) of metal debris.
As a fitting resting place, the material will be carted off to Cactus Crater, itself borne of a buried and sealed with an eighteen inch (45cm) thick concrete cap, to prevent any of the material from re-contaminating the area. The cleanup is expected to take two years to complete. Then the US authorities will begin reforesting. But the 500 islanders who'll be returned say the intensive facelift is little compensation. As Roger Bray, the project manager says, the atoll will just never be the same again.