60 years later, the impact of nuke tests continues to haunt Marshall Islands
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands ended over six decades ago, yet its communities continue to grapple with the after-effects and many of its islands remain unsafe for resettlement, according to Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission.
“Multiple generations within families throughout many Marshallese communities are facing health challenges that we are ill-equipped to address,” the commission said in a statement commemorating the UN General Assembly’s declaration of Oct. 24-30 as Disarmament Week 43 years ago.
The commission noted that while the Nuclear Claims Tribunal has partially awarded some of the compensation claims, most of the victims remain unpaid.
In a 2019 report, the commission said the initial funds from the United States to pay islanders impacted by nuclear testing was about $150 million administered through a tribunal to compensate for property and personal damages from the testing.
The United States tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958. With the Able nuclear test on July 1, 1946, the United States fired the opening salvo in one of the worst tragedies in the nation's history.
“We are at risk of our future generations not having the knowledge about this part of their history that they’ll need, to address the problems they will inherit,” the commission said.
While the Pacific island nations continue to call for denuclearization of the region, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States last month forged a trilateral security pact, billed AUKUS, which will entail the deployment of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia. AUKUS is designed to counter the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region.
“This week was established in hopes of promoting a better understanding among the public of disarmament issues,” the commission said. “Marshall Islands has always stood against weapons of mass destruction, having experienced firsthand the enduring destruction of nuclear weapons.”
The nuclear tests, the commission said, represented human rights violations that have yet to be addressed.
“There is still much progress to be made in terms of justice, but we believe our stories will make a great impact,” the commission said. “The negative effects that impact our human rights, land, culture, and lives are a weight no other nation should have to face.”
This year’s theme “Securing Humanity’s Future” aligns with the UN's Agenda for Disarmament focusing on saving humanity, lives, future generations and strengthening partnerships for disarmament, the commission said.
“It is exemplified through many youth groups within the Marshallese community," the commission said. "Many Marshallese youth carry the trauma and heartache of the nuclear tests through stories of their families’ experiences. They are seeking action and justice for their community and their families.”