• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of July 19, 1996

Facts about... nuclear explosions in the Bikini Atoll.

Transcript

NUNLEY: Fifty years ago this week the US government exploded a 20-kiloton nuclear weapon beneath a lagoon in the South Pacific's Bikini atoll. The blast heaved a column of water more than a mile into the sky, and sank a dozen old Navy ships left there as part of the experiment. One aircraft carrier was flung a half-mile through the air. In the days that followed Navy cleanup crews tried to salvage the remaining ships by swabbing away contamination. The sailors wore no protective clothing, just their uniforms, and by the 1970s veterans of the Bikini blast were filing claims for cancer and other illnesses. In 1988 Congress granted many of them disability payments. The 200 residents of Bikini evacuated before the test had been told they could return in a few months, but the tests continued. One hundred residents finally moved back in 1969 after the US government assured them that the island was safe. But the assurance was premature. The returnees were contaminated by eating radioactive coconuts, and in 1978 they were evacuated again. The Bikinians later won millions of dollars in claims against the United States. This fall they plan to begin removing radioactive topsoil from their island to clear the way for their long-awaited return. And for this week that's the Living on Earth almanac.

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.