World’s Most Nuclear Contaminated Island Has Been Uninhabitable For 77 Years
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The world’s most nuclear contaminated island still lies uninhabited more than 70 years after it was used for nuclear testing.
Residents of Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean were relocated back in 1946, so that the United States military could carry out nuclear tests, which ran until 1958.
The 167 residents were told the tests were essential to prevent future wars, and kicked off just one year after the devastating nuclear attacks in Hiroshima and Nagisaki.
Bikini Atoll was chosen as the test site as it was under US control and was within 1,000 miles of a base that bombers could take off from.
In total, 23 nuclear weapons were set off, across areas including the reef, in the air and underwater.
Among the tests was a thermonuclear bomb detonated on 1 March 1954, during which scientists miscalculated its 15 megatonnes of TNT – and had instead expected it to be around 4 to 8 megatonnes of TNT.
The resulting bomb was 1,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagisaki.
Before the tests took place, Islanders were initially told they would be able to move back to the island in the future – and in 1970 some families did return, but tests revealed that they developed dangerous levels of strontium-90 and that cesium-137 levels had risen by 75 percent.
Most former residents were permanently relocated 450 miles away to the Kili island, while some headed to the United States.
Despite the passage of time, experts still believe the island isn't safe to visit.
Ivana Nikolic Hughes, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Columbia University and Director of the K-1 Project Center for Nuclear Studies, told Metro: “Probably the most robust finding from our research is that Bikini Island must be cleaned up if people are to live there again.
“This is based on levels of Cesium-137 in the food, background gamma radiation, and presence of various isotopes in soil and ocean sediment.”
Despite the area remaining off-limits to human life, in 2017, scientists from Stanford University discovered ‘an abundance of marine life apparently thriving in the crater or Bikini Atoll’.
Following the years of testing, the United States agreed to pay former residents and their descendants $125 million in compensation for damage caused by the nuclear testing program and the displacement from their home.
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