Nuclear warning: Toxic waste equivalent to 2,000 Hiroshima bombs could be leaking in sea | Science | News

Enewetak Atoll is a series of small islands in the South Pacific which the US government used to test its nuclear weapons following World War 2 from 1948 to 1958. Over a ten year period, 30 megatons of weapons – equivalent to 2,000 Hiroshima bombs – were dropped on the islands during the Cold War. When the US had finished its testing, it built a concrete barrier known as the Runit dome to store the debris of 43 nuclear explosions in a clean-up operation lasting from 1977 to 1980.

However, employees who worked on the clean-up believe the dome could be leaking radioactive waste into to the ocean.

In response, the US has invested $1,689,000 (£1.32m) in a mission to analyse the dome, but there are claims that it could be too late as the waste could have seeped into the ocean, which would have an effect on the marine ecosystem.

Paul Griego, a former radiochemist who worked on the cleanup operation from June 1977 to October 1978, said: “We need the very same funding and for the very same analysis – the dome can wait for radiochemical analysis but we are human and we cannot wait.

“As we continue to suffer and to die off the evidence is either buried or cremated.”

While the US government said staff were subjected to just low-levels of radiation and wore all the necessary protective gear, Mr Griego has said this was not the case.

The 62-year old added: “We are certain we have the very same radionuclides in our bodies that that would be found in the dome.

“We were bombarded with radiation while building the dome, we drank the contaminated water, inhaled the dust-filled air, absorbed contaminates though our skin, ate the fish we caught and more.

“We are not only denied the diagnostic resources, we are denied healthcare to cover our radiation and toxin-related illnesses.

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However, people who were on the scene said that the dome was not lined with concrete, and warn it could be seeping into the ocean.

For this reason, the US will embark on an 18 month mission to analyse the dome to see if needs to be reinforced or perhaps completely removed.

Doug Domenech, Assistant US Secretary of the Interior for Insular and International Affairs, said: “The US Departments of the Interior and Energy are partnering on this important analysis of Runit Dome so that we can be responsive to both Congress and concerns expressed by the Enewetak community in the Marshall Islands.”

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