The Bikini Atoll still may be too radioactive from the 23 atomic bombs dropped on it between 1946 and 1958 for any inhabitants to return, says a new study, but there apparently are a lot of displaced Pacific Islanders who want to call the atoll home.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
on Monday, examined the Bikini Atoll along with the neighboring Rongelap and Enewetak atolls last year to determine their radioactive levels. The atolls are northern parts of the Marshall Islands.
Hundreds of residents were evacuated from the three atolls to enable the Cold War nuclear weapons tests, noted the Huffington Post
The government had promised residents they could return after the testing, said the Post, and some did return to Bikini in the early 1970s but were evacuated again after "alarming" increases of the radioactive isotope cesium 137 in their bodies were found.
"Notably, Bikini Island is found to have radiation levels exceeding the agreement promulgated by the (United States) and (Republic of Marshall Islands) governments for safe habitation of Rongelap," said the study.
"This finding suggests that Bikini Island exceeds this standard and may not be safe for habitation. Islands on Rongelap and Enewetak atolls are found to have external gamma radiation levels well below the RMI/US standard for safe habitation. However, without measuring other exposure pathways, we are not able to make a determination as to whether these islands are indeed safe for habitation."
"There is a population currently living on Enewetak, in some trepidation as to whether or not their environment is safe," said the study. "In addition, there is currently a large population of displaced Marshallese people who desire to return to Rongelap and Bikini. Given these circumstances, it seems imperative that further steps be taken to analyze additional exposure pathways to make a definitive statement as to whether these islands are safe for habitation."
Despite the danger at the Bikini Atoll, tourists groups have organized occasional diving trips to the area, noted the Post.
External exposure to large amounts of cesium 137, or Cs-137, can cause burns, acute radiation sickness, and possibly death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to it could lead to increased cancer risk because of exposure to high-energy gamma radiation, noted the CDC website
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