21 April 2011

Marshall Islands Requests Radiation Monitors in Wake of Continuing Radioactivity Release in Japan

Marshall Islands Journal

Foreign Secretary Kino Kabua made the request this week to the US Embassy, and said it followed up on earlier requests from Minister John Silk and the RMI EPA to the US Embassy. No formal response to the equipment request has been received, Kabua said. Meanwhile, Majuro’s Weather Station Office is the designated National Data Center for worldwide radiation monitoring related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But one RMI official said that while the RMI government can access this global radiation data, the RMI does not have the skills to evaluate and interpret the data.

Editor's Note: The Marshall Islands is a freely associated state in association with the United States, and emerged from the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the U.S. following World War II. The islands were the site of significant nuclear testing during the Cold War, and the government continues to petition for radiation compensation because of the effects of the testing.

Lydia Kaminaga of the Marshall Islands Government in her statement to the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee on October 2009 noted that:

For more than 50 years, the people of the Marshall Islands had travelled to the halls of the United Nations to raise a single issue -– the one that was at the central focus of the resolution before the Committee today, namely the urgent need for comprehensive, unbiased and objective understanding of the effects of atomic radiation. For her country, the issue of exposure to the effects of atomic radiation was not an abstract scientific principle, but an active experience. In the context of support for and consideration of UNSCEAR’s work researching the effects of background radiation, her delegation wanted to draw attention to the need to consider the appropriate responsibility of the United Nations, through its Member States and agencies, and of the former United Nations administering authority, the United States, in fully addressing the effects of atomic radiation in the Marshall Islands.

She said that during its status as a United Nations Trust Territory, Marshall Islands had been the test site of 67 large-scale atmospheric nuclear weapons, by the United Nations administering authority, from 1948 to 1958. That had taken place with the explicit approval of the United Nations Trusteeship Council. The people of the Marshall Islands, for decades, had spent considerable effort detailing the specific and devastating effects of the exposure to atomic materials, including declassified documents detailing deliberate exposure.

The true impact of those United Nations-mandated actions upon the people, culture and environment of the Marshall Islands was beyond description, she continued. It was not just a historical issue, but one which, because of a variety of actions undertaken with inadequate understanding of safe scientific levels of exposure, had continued for generations. Acknowledging the important efforts that had since been taken to remediate the environment and address the health and losses of the people, she said that the Marshall Islands were still awaiting a complete response, and were still in exile. Science confirmed what people and communities had long known -– that the United Nations itself could do much more to facilitate public dissemination and scientific understanding of exposure to atomic radiation, particularly in the context of the Marshall Islands.

The resolutions passed on the subject did not regard any one nation or people impacted by the effects of exposure to atomic radiation, she said. Rather, those were an opportunity for the international community to show far stronger endorsement for sustaining UNSCEAR through strengthened support for advancing comprehensive and objective scientific understanding of exposure. Science should not be a “moving target” for policy and political decisions, she emphasized.


In 2010, the United Nations agreed to study the effects of the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, as indicatged in the following 17th November 2010 report by Radio New Zealand:


Report on impacts due next year 

The United Nations has agreed to investigate the impacts of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.In a resolution adopted yesterday, the UN agreed to produce a report next year on the nuclear testing impacts on the group of Islands.The report is expected to focus on scientific questions, including safe exposure levels, but also look more broadly at the economic and social impacts of testing.The Marshall Islands Ambassador to the UN, Phillip Muller, says the government will work closely with the four atoll communities most directly affected by the tests.

On 10th December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its resolution  65/96 entitled  Effects of Atomic Radiation which request(ed) the (U.N.) Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly, within existing resources, at its sixty-sixth session, regarding the effects of atomic radiation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, taking into account analysis by recognized experts, including the Scientific Committee, and previously published studies on the topic.

The report is due by September 2011.