Enewetak Atoll--Cleaning Up Nuclear Contamination

PSAD-79-54: Published: May 8, 1979. Publicly Released: May 8, 1979.

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In 1972, the United States announced it was prepared to release Enewetak Atoll to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands assuming it would eventually be cleaned up and resettled. This project is underway and is expected to be completed in 1980 at a cost of $100 million to $105 million.

If the United States accomplishes all of its objectives for cleaning up the Atoll, the Enewetak people must not either knowingly or unintentionally violate U.S.-recommended living pattern restrictions if they are to avoid overexposure to radiation. As the time for resettlement approaches, the people are less willing to defer, perhaps for as long as 100 years, establishing residences on Enewetak's second largest island until certain radioactive elements no longer pose a radiation hazard. Unsettled test-related issues which remain could result in difficulties for the United States if not resolved soon. These issues include, loss of land, loss of land use, loss of cash crops, radiological monitoring, and the possibility that recommended living pattern restrictions will not be observed. Significant radiological aspects of the project have not been independently assessed.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Office of Micronesian Status Negotiations should make every effort to arrive at an agreement with the Marshall Islands Political Status Commission and the people of Enewetak concerning nuclear test-related issues yet unresolved, such as: (1) lost land or land use; (2) lost cash crops found to be unacceptably contaminated with radioactive elements; (3) what the responsibility of the United States would be should the people of Enewetak choose not to observe recommended living pattern restrictions; (4) the courses of action to be taken should the people of Enewetak receive excessive doses of radiation; and (5) the future status of the entombed radioactivity-contaminated soil and debris on the islands and how future monitoring and inspection will be accomplished. The Secretary of the Interior should initiate an independent technical assessment of the Enewetak clean-up project.

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