Runit Dome: The Radioactive Trash Can on Enewetak Atoll

36 comments

Since World War II, the United States has conducted over 1,000 nuclear tests mostly at Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands, and various other locations around the United States. Over 100 of them took place place at sites in the Pacific Ocean.

Enewetak Atoll is a large coral atoll of 40 islands in the Pacific Ocean, located 305 kilometres west from Bikini Atoll, and was a major test bed for nuclear weapons, post World War II. Before Enewetak came under the control of the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, it was under the Japanese control who used the atoll as refuelling stop for planes flying between Chuuk Lagoon and the islands to the east. After the capture of Enewetak, it became a major forward naval base for the U.S. Navy. Then the island was evacuated and the nuclear tests began.

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Between 1948 and 1958, Enewetak Atoll witnessed 43 such as tests including the first hydrogen bomb test in late 1952 as part of Operation Ivy, which vaporized the islet of Elugelab.

In 1977, an effort to decontaminate the islands of Enewetak began. During the three years that followed, the military mixed more than 111,000 cubic yards (85,000 m3) of contaminated soil and debris from the various islands with Portland cement and buried it in a 30-foot deep, 350-foot wide blast crater on the northern end of the atoll's Runit Island. The crater was created by an 18 kiloton test bomb nicknamed “Cactus” on May 5, 1958. A dome composed of 358 concrete panels, each 18 inches thick, was constructed over the material. The final cost of the cleanup project was $239 million.

After the completion of the dome, the United States government declared the southern and western islands in the atoll safe for habitation in 1980, and residents of Enewetak returned that same year. Today, you can visit the dome and stomp across the surface.

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36 comments:

  1. Incomplete story. Here's the rest: there are huge cracks in the dome, which have been reported by fishermen for years and tourists more recently. You can actually see them on pictures accompanying Google Earth. No plans to fix it thus far... Furthermore, the inhabitants were not "evacuated" but forcefully removed to other islands in the atoll that are so close that cancer rates have skyrocketed! Naturally, the U.S. Govt. has been denying responsability for decades... U.S. soldiers (navy) & scientists that were present stepped on the island right after the bombs and their medical claims are finally being honored, now that most of them are dead and the cost will be low! My in-law is one of them...

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  2. God bless America!

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  3. Sound's like you aren't American, maybe you should move to a third world, grow your own food, shovel your own body waste and make your own electric to give you the ability to power the internet you just posted on with that freedom of speech you are blessed with.

    Ungrateful, mistakes are made; if you want to give up your American Citizenship no one would miss you. Disgracing your nation is disgusting, you rather let invaders keep attacking. It was a show of force a bitter means to an end of attacking colonist namely japan and a show of might other nations at the time which were all in the race to develop this technology.

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    1. Are you proud of your county's reckless, dangerous, racist past? I wouldn't be. Your nation has disgraced itself enough. Now you're disgracing yourself and your family by supporting this garbage.

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    2. I hope this man does not represent the views of the American people. I would feel shame if my country were responsible for this abomination.

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    3. There's no way around it. The entire nuclear program was a bad idea. Millions of people have suffered as a direct result. But it made the Japanese surrender so it's all worth it right? Wrong.
      I am ashamed to be American when I see things like this

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    4. If it were not for our country and it's policing the world duties, your country would have probably been annihilated by now and you wouldn't be able to spout crap like you did about America. Get a life. If you pull your head out of your tail end, it is a lot lighter and you can actually see truth in the world. What I just relayed to you was TRUTH. You have a lot of gall. Or are you on here as a joking 14 year old?

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    5. Leroy again, sorry your mad about someone whom wont bad mouth his country. America is not the only country which tested a nuclear weapon, and it's a tragedy that unknowingly we put people at risk. War crimes happens, but to go spot checking and rambling about and claiming USA is horrible because of a test site which became a nuclear hazard; would be for me unpatriotic and I stand by my country and it leaders. We developed sustainable nuclear energy out of the research, helping to provide energy and heat after the cold war. Another thing I had a father in active duty at the island during this operations; and not once he complained about the hypocrisies of the nuclear effects on himself.

      Killing and destruction is always sad, and heart breaking; however the slaughter of human kind has always been apart of history. In order to protect your nation against invading forces, and or the threat of it; you prepare weapons which will minimize the casualties of your people while destroying your opposition. I'm not total unapologetic however our country was to protect America, the little amount of people miss placed which was already being misplaced by other invaders which wanted to harm America.

      So yes we unfortunately by testing left a nuclear radiation stain on our beautiful mother earth which cannot be undone, however we had no idea about the long term effect; this was something every country learned with the development of nuclear fusion and fission. So if your in the comfort's of your home, reading and replying your country mort than likely as well learned and or benefits from the creation of nuclear power. Human displacement is always sad and we learned from attack with nuclear weapons, and we haven't attacked another country with a nuke; however remember our country was at war. Our people at the time did what was thought to be necessary, we were a fairly new country and didn't understand much about the long term effects of radiation.

      So to sit here and hate America my home country for the creation of nuclear energy, and the unfortunate test site in the Marshall Islands and in Nevada which left radiation would be unpatriotic; I support my country lessons. We American's are not terrible, just because I will not say our fore father's were terrible people for building and testing a nuclear bomb which unfortunately displaced humans which were already displaced by another invading force. I stand by my fore fathers doing's and the wrong or right decisions which came out of this creation. I'm proud to be an American, even when we are not glorious because of our actions. Since were pointing fingers, why don't you list all the nuclear contaminations of the world; it happens we are humans we make mistake's. And America has attempted to pay and right the actions of this contamination and displacement. My real blessing goes to the soldiers which were contaminated during these test which never got rewarded or sick pay for the radiation they took with honor and was still proud to be an American. I'm an American, and I can't change what my fore fathers did; if you don't like me for that reason sounds like a grudge and not something I can personal account for.

      My initial comment was what I thought was someone American bad mouthing, America; therefore unpatriotic so I commented. Every country has some events which can be considered inhumane, even America; however this doesn't mean I will bad mouth their efforts at providing safety for the American people. Yes we are not prefect, however we are not the devil; we learn from mistakes and Americans care about the benefit of all human kind, even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. So I still love America, flaws and all.

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    6. Qe are the devil forcing this money way of life on people that dont want it does isis want? Hell no..if we created this nuclear mess we need to use again in middle east so finally this planet can have some peace i guess aalot countries forget we have nukes mid east north korea lets show them

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  4. Yes. No Americans were harmed, and no Americans were forcibly moved so who cares? Only one country is allowed to colonize and invade others and that is the USA!!! These brown people had to get out of our way! We saved them from other countries that wanted to colonise and invade by colonising and invading their island. Then they complain that their land is radioactive - ungrateful swine.

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    1. Americans were harmed. I am one of them and there are many more that have suffered their entire lives since the Clean Up Operation. You have to re-check your sources. We are dying off at a ridiculously fast rate. I have less than a year. Death Sentence for serving honorably. The natives were removed from the islands and a few wanted to go back. We made them all wealthy, they chose other places to live and the servicemen suffering from Cancers and other diseases and illnesses get othing.

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  5. Well done U.S.A.! Another ugly chapter in your history covered up by a disgusting, broken, useless concrete dome. Do the world a favor and go back to testing nuclear weapons on American soil. Thin out your ranks of overweight, racist, ignorant, useless sacks of skin.

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  6. You people are idiots.

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    1. I was a participant in the Nuclear Clean-Up Project as a U.S. Serviceman. I was Discharged with an Honorable Discharge and moved up the ranks faster than anyone I knew. I found your comment to be repulsive, due to the fact of the hardships we all suffered while there and for our entire lives' post Enewetak. I ended up with Stage 3-C Colon Cancer that the Government admits causing. I have proof of where I was at and when I was there. We were not told why we were going there and we were given NO protective gear to clean up radiation from the largest weapons ever detonated on the planet. The half-life for radiation is 10-20000 years after the blasts. Now with your incredible insight, do you believe that scraping 18 inches of topsoil off the island, including the one we were living on, then replacing it with soil from the Nevada Test Site is going to decimate all the radioactive debris, dust, groundwater, lagoon, food we ate? No. But the U.S Government has turned their backs on all of us and done nothing. I had to quit working at 49 years old. I lost everything I ever worked for. I had a business that netted me almost 500,000 per year. I gave back to my community and was never greedy. We did a ton of Philanthropy work and never used one item of those donations on my tax returns. For you to call one of us an idiot is a blatant Kick in the Teeth to an Honorable person that paid his dues to protect the interests and citizen's of the United States, without ever knowing of the circumstances of our living, working and most of all, our health risks. The government placed us there, and YES... THEY OWE US! Big-Time! And individuals such as yourself should be a little more empathetic towards the ones that keep you free. Sincerely, Another ATOMIC VETERAN THAT HAS BEEN IGNORED. And yes, by this stage in our lives, we all have Attitude!

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    2. were u there for phase 2 clean up

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  7. Everyone we have a problem... A lot of these photos used to be discoverable on the old Google maps. Now they are missing. Is this a glitch or is Google bowing to the requests of the government?

    You can still see them on the old Google maps here, but I believe the vast majority of people use the new google maps now. http://goo.gl/maps/vXzVp

    I think we need all need to write feedback to google and post publicly about this to make sure they don't feel like its ok to hide this kind of information!

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    1. Try Google Earth, they're still there. Looked at them about 10 minutes ago. I stood on the very edge of that crater before there was a dome there 11 years after the "Cactus" shot. Only lingered about 5 minutes then went to join the rest of my group; we had motored to Runit aboard an old LCI from the island of Enewetak.

      So far no cancers or other maladies that could be induced by radiation.

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  8. The really sad part is those of us that did the cleanup and now have cancer can not get our claims approved by the V.A.

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  9. I was there place is not safe they should sent that idiot over there he would change his mind in about two seconds

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  10. Time to start writing congress and get serious nobody knows about runit time for a little 60 minute interview.what do you think❓

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  11. I was in the army back then and several people in my company were chosen to go over there add part of the cleanup detail. At the time I thought I had missed out on a cool detail but now, some 30 years later, I'm glad I didn't go. I wonder after all these years how they did health wise. I wish them the best.

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  12. I was stationed on Enewetak for the Clean-up. I didn't find out we were awarded Humanitarian awards until 33 years after they were issued. I never did get mine. I had Stage 3-C Colon Cancer. I am on 30 medications, have over 20 different health issues. I have a Nexus Letter from a VA doctor that states he believes my cancer was caused by exposure on Enewetak. I also have a presumptive disease that is acknowledged by the VA. I have all my records and travel orders. My records were either missing, redacted and my medical records were completely blank. I am now on my third appeal. I have contacted over 50 politician's, News organizations and various Veteran Organizations and I have gotten absolutely nowhere. This is a blatant slap in the face to anyone that served there under Honorable Conditions. Why does our government turn their backs on us?

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    1. Because the American government is a cheap whore.

      Thank you for your service, Sir!

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    2. I'm so sorry and hope that you have been able to file a successful RECA claim. I'm not surprised to hear that your records vanished--my dad's dosimetry badges from his time there in 1958-59 disappeared too, and it was only recently that our RECA claim was awarded after the government obfuscated and lied for twenty-five years.

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  13. USA nothing more than a prostitute, no principles no integrity no moral, no ethics

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  14. I was with Joint Task Force 3.4.2 Drone Squadron-Operation Greenhouse-I was on Eniwetok from Jan.1951 to May 1951. I was an Electronic Tech. on a B-17 Mother Plane which flew B-17 Drones through the atomic clouds to obtain samples for the AEC. I am 84 years old and have enjoyed being cancer free so far. I do have a copy of the radiation that was recorded on the instrument that I wore during all four explosions-this was sent several years ago after a national TV notice to all atomic veterans to call the displayed #. We had an AEC officer on all manned flights to keep check on the amount our radiation and what was in the plane. When we got back to base the AEC officer would collect all instruments and make a determination if on needed to go through decontamination , which was throw away clothes and shower and scrub until the radiation was acceptable.

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  15. Hey anonymous, (May 29, 2014 at 8:08 AM).... Where are you from. I am sure that your country is completely free of any sort of mistakes in the past or present. I am sure that you can wave your flag proudly without a thought of who might have been harmed under its banner. Having served for more than 20 years I have seen the bad and good in a lot of nations but one thing is for sure. I have helped more than I have harmed and the harmed have been in the progress of hurting the innocent. Look at the other side pal...you really need to.

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  16. It horrifies me that this dome is portrayed as some sort of amusing novelty. The Marshall Islands were declared the most toxic place on the planet over a decade ago. My father was there during the tests; he died of multiple forms of cancer as a result of his service. The Marshallese way of life was ruined forever. Veterans of the tests and the cleanup efforts have died or continue to suffer from illness and their children have suffered genetic damage as a result of the US government's zeal to test as many weapons as possible before the moratorium. Survivors are still waiting for acknowledgment, adequate care, and compensation for their losses. Yet our government continues to send troops to Eniwetak and visitors come and go freely to play on beaches that will be dangerously radioactive long after all of us are gone. The government that declared the Marshalls "safe" is the same government that sent our families there to be poisoned and die slow, painful deaths.

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  17. I was in the Army in a helicopter unit in 1977. Our platoon was asked if anyone wanted to go to "Hawaii" for TDY (temporary duty). My hand shot up and I was selected to go to Enewetak for the clean up. Once I figured out how I had been tricked, I found a loophole to get out of it (not qualified on the type of helicopters they were using). It was a crap reason since all the birds are fundamentally the same but it worked. I've been forever happy that I got out of it and probably saved my life but it only later occurred to me that someone else had to take the fall in my stead. I've felt pretty bad about that. BTW, at the time, they insisted it was completely safe duty.

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    1. I respect your decision, you had clear vision of the subterfuge being used against you. Nobody has a duty to cooperate with bad faith. I suspect that the hazard wasn't nearly as bad in 77 as it was in 58, unless they expected you to stupidly bathe in dust or something. Maybe some reader has a medical story to say I'm wrong about that?...

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    2. Pretty tough to enforce proactive honesty on the military. I wonder if military culture should be considered incompatible with nuclear (or any environmental) cleanup. I.E., it should be civilian contractors all the way. Core of Engineers can design & specify the job...

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  18. I was there in 1979 for the cleanup an feel compelled to clear up a few of the untruths and accusations I have read here. 1. The US did not take the atoll from the natives, they bought the atoll, moved all seven tribes to an island about 300 miles away. 2. The money the natives received was placed in a trust and each person receives a check quarterly. 3. The tribal chiefs selected one child from each of the tribes and that child was sent away to school (USA, England, France, etc.) 4. One of them became a lawyer and sued the US, won and the US was required to make the island habitable again. 5. The standard for "habitable" radiation level was based on the natural radiation level of Denver Colorado. 6. The amount of contaminated soil removed was determined by the DOE (Department of Energy) using a tracked vehicle and a probe (known as an IMP) that measured the radiation levels for every 4 foot square of the island. 7. Once an island was determined to meet the requirement, the entire population would return on a Navy ship and the tribal chief would survey the island and the Corp of Engineers built each individual/family a house to their specifications. 8. My assignment there was to teach Radiation Protection to all personnel upon arrival; collect individual dosimeters and film badges and record their readings; collect and record all contaminated island dosimeter reading also. 9. Lemon and Lime trees were planted and the amount radiation drawn up through the roots was also monitored. 10. If you current information follow this link: https://marshallislands.llnl.gov/index.php

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  19. I'm glad that y served our country in the capacity that you did now allow me to give you a perspective from someone that never saw any lemon or lime trees or anyone in those fine yellow suits . What I did expirience first hand was laying in that not so polluted soil fixing bulldozers and various other equipment in shorts, cut off jungle boots , and a jungle hat that was the uniform of the day for the lojawa animal. In closing I wouldn't want you or any one else to get me wrong I will love and defend my country till the day I die and I would do it all over again , but I think it's time for our leaders to at least acknowledge that we were there and that a lot of us do have problems from our tours on Enewetak. Speaking for myself I've had two denials from the va. This is so similar to the Vietnam vets and agent orange deny deny deny maybe they will all die off.

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  20. Went thru and read all the comments to the guys that have suffered and are still suffering from either the first time or the clean up God bless and don't stop fighting don't let the va tell you you don't exixt that's what they do every time they deny our claims. As for the rest of you yahoos that want to talk crap about our country all I can say to you is you ought to thank god you live in this country and can exercise your first amendment right to trash our nation ironic isn't it if you lived in communist North Korea they might put you in jail. Finally to the gent that served planting lemon and lime trees thanks for serving , but let me tell you it wasn't quite like that for me and a lot of others the uniform of the day was fatigues cut short as you can cut them cut off jungle boots and a jungle hat . That my friend is how rolled in the dirt to fix dozers trucks and all types of broken down equipment I can't help but wonder if you were one of those guys with the Geiger counters saying your hot go in the lagoon and wash off before you come to eat lunch. That's how it was on Janet day in and day out

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  21. To the gent that planted trees and took badges and tought radiation classes thanks for serving. It's obious to me that you were not a lojawa animal as we were called nor did you work on engebe. Unless you were one of the guys that checked us at lunch time to see if we were too hot to go eat lunch . If we were we were told to go to the lagoon and wash off. Uniform of the day for most of us if not all was jungle hat fatigues cut as short as could be jungle boots cut at the ankles. This how I repaired dozers trucks and all other broken down equip o yea lets not forget this was done in the sand and dirt the same dirt that was being scraped off and sent to runit to the batch plant .

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