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Thread: The Deadly dome.

  1. #1
    Administrator Ross's Avatar
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    The Deadly dome.

    Deadly dome of gorgeous Pacific island leaking radioactive waste

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    The 46cm-thick concrete dome covers radioactive soil left by atomic testing.

    A PICTURESQUE coral atoll that lies northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean harbours a deadly secret.

    A giant, concrete dome filled with radioactive waste looms above Runit Island, and it’s leaking. Locals call it “The Tomb”.

    Runit (or Cactus) dome was used for Cold War nuclear testing by the US government for 10 years from 1948. There were 42 tests in total on Enewetak Atoll, including 22 explosions on platforms, barges and underwater in the space of just three months in 1958, just before a moratorium on atomic testing.

    In the late 1970s, an estimated 73,000 cubic metres of contaminated topsoil was deposited in the Cactus nuclear test crater beneath the dome, according to a report commissioned by the US government.

    It was only supposed to be a temporary measure — but the dome remains.

    Scientists now fear that a major storm, typhoon or other natural disaster could damage the 46cm-thick concrete dome, releasing nuclear waste into the sea, The Guardian reports.

    The US Department of Energy insists cracks in the dome are merely cosmetic, a result of drying and shrinking of the half-submerged dome, but there are plans for repairs.

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    Poor locals fish and salvage scrap metal around Enewetak Atoll.

    The 2013 report states that this is to satisfy local concerns, but adds that rainwater could infiltrate through the cracks, possibly affecting groundwater flow and “radionuclide migration into the marine environment”.

    Inhabitants of Runit were resettled on nearby Enewetak Island in 1980. Even in the early days, concerns were raised over human exposure to radiation through locally grown food, with resettlers resorting to cans of spam, Columbia University’s Michael Gerrard wrote last year in The New York Times.

    Runit remains uninhabited, home only to abandoned bunkers and cables, but locals still visit to fish and salvage scrap metal. It sounds dangerous, but impoverished Marshall Islanders say they have no choice.

    And just because Runit is remote, doesn’t mean other countries are totally immune from its influence. A report published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal last year traced plutonium found in Guangdong province in the South China Sea back to the Marshall Islands.

    Professor Alex Sen Gupta, from the University of NSW, told that it was likely the radioactive material would be diluted to a very low concentration by the time it reached other countries, but said it would be of serious local concern.

    “If radioactive material is leaching over a long period of time, you get bioaccumulation,” he said. “It’s the same as when oysters in a river magnify a situation.

    “There’s a reasonable population in that area, and if radioactive waste in hanging around, it could be a problem.”

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    Runit is not the only Pacific island dealing with a nuclear legacy. “Poor islands have to deal with the mess left by large governments,” Professor Gupta said.

    An association of governments in French Polynesia is preparing to ask France for nearly a billion US dollars in compensation for damage caused by nuclear weapons tests around Mururoa Atoll, The Independent reported last year.

    Other atolls in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, have shared this dubious honour. The first US hydrogen bomb test vaporised the islet of Elugelab 1952. Bikini Atoll was the site of the most powerful hydrogen bomb, codename Bravo, set off on its reef in 1954.

    A fireball shot into the air at 480km/h, taking millions of tons of sand, coral, plant and sea life with it. Locals were moved to Kili, a small island with few resources, where they faced starvation. Many returned to Bikini Island, despite the contamination of water wells, breadfruit and coconut crabs, which were found to be too radioactive for human consumption. Many now rely on US rice and canned goods to survive.

    The nuclear crisis continues out in the Pacific. But it’s far enough away for everyone to forget about it.

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    Administrator Ross's Avatar
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    Concrete dome holding nuclear waste will leak.


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    A deep crater can be seen sitting alongside the Dome, which houses 400 lumps of plutonium.

    A 50 cm-thick concrete dome is all that stands between 85,000 cubic metres of soil mixed with radioactive waste.

    The fissile material left behind has a radioactive half-life of more than 24,000 years.*

    At first glance it could be mistaken for any picture-perfect group of holiday islands.

    However, a closer inspection reveals a dark history which bears the legacy of nuclear tests carried out by the United States.

    Now rising sea levels and climate change threaten to unleash highly radioactive plutonium into the Pacific Ocean in a nightmare scenario for those who live in the Marshall Islands where dozens of nuclear blasts took place in the 1940s.

    Runit, a tiny outpost of the Marshall Islands, is surrounded by shimmering blue lagoons, but Marshall Island locals regard it as ground zero and a "a big monument to a giant American f***-up".

    A massive concrete dome stands beside a giant bomb crater containing tonnes of nuclear waste including about 400 lumps of plutonium.

    Foreign Correspondent's Mark Willacy visited the Marshall Islands and discovered more about its dark legacy.

    Some 23 atomic bomb tests were carried out on the Bikini Atoll and at least 40 more were done at Enewetak atoll, which includes Runit, and other Marshalls atolls in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Speaking to ahead of the program going to air Monday night, Willacy said those who remained living in the region were worried.

    The reporter said visiting Runit was eerie and it was at first hard to believe toxic material lay underneath an island with an azure lagoon and green scrub.

    "It's only from the air that you get to see how big it really is," he said.

    Runit Island, located on the remote Enewetak Atoll, was the scene of the biggest nuclear clean-up in US history.

    Willacy said rising sea levels meant water has begun to penetrate the dome containing the toxic waste with radioactive material leaking out.

    A 2013 report commissioned by the US Department of Energy confirmed the dome was leaking.

    While the US paid for the clean-up, Willacy said initial plans to lining the bottom of the dome with concrete didn't go ahead and the soil was permeable, which meant seawater gets inside.

    "The dome was only meant to be a temporary solution until the US came up with a permanent plan," he said. "Instead it was a shoddy cost cutting exercise."

    Despite a $US2.3 billion compensation award, only $US4 million has been paid out.

    He said cracks are visible in the dome's surface but said even if the structure failed the US government didn't necessarily believe it would lead to a change in the contamination levels in the waters surrounding it.

    Residents on Enewetak Atoll fear they will have to move if the dome collapses completely and warn a leak would not only be devastating for them but for would cause a toxic nightmare for the whole Pacific.

    "One woman I spoke to called it a tomb because it could be their graveyard," he said.

    Willacy, who has covered the devastation of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and Fukushima disaster, said there were differences in how the Asian nation and the US dealt with the radiation clean up.

    "Fukushima was heavily populated and Japan was at fault so had to deal with it, and couldn't just pour concrete on it and walk away," he said.

    He said the Marshall Islands had a handful of villages in comparison and was much more remote.

    Willacy said those living in the Marshall Islands remained concerned due to long term exposure effects and rising sea levels caused by climate change.

    "Sea levels will have a lot more impact than just high end real estate being flooded," he said.

    "More than 50,000 people live in the Marshall Islands and climate change is happening for these people now."

    Marshallese community leader Alson Kelen told Willacy the dome was the connection between the nuclear age and the climate change age.

    "We're not talking just the Marshall Islands, we're talking the whole Pacific Ocean" he said.

    Nuclear disarmament campaigner John Hallam said the Marshall Islands were a US trust territory on which the US carried out their largest ever nuclear test, the Castle Bravo test, of 15 megaton yield, on March 1, 1954.

    "The Castle Bravo test was itself much larger than had been planned and almost resulted in the destruction of the reinforced concrete control bunker, which started moving violently as the ground shock reached it," he said.

    "It also resulted in massive fallout, some of which is underneath that concrete dome."

    This test was 1000 times as powerful as the US nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

    Hallam said photos of the dome showed a pool of water directly under it and it came so no surprise that it's leaking.

    "When the dome was constructed, the US DoD (Department of Defense) almost contemptuously reassured the RMI (Republic of Marshall Islands) government that it would last for the next 200,000 years. This is of course nonsense, and it's now breaking apart."

    He said the Marshall Islands story is part of the wider one of nuclear testing in the pacific, carried out by the US, France, and the UK.

    Enewetak Atoll sits west of the more famous Bikini Atoll, where only half as many atomic tests were carried out. Between the two of them, the explosive potential of the 67 tests was equivalent to around 7000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.
    Last edited by Ross; 11-27-2017 at 12:45 PM.
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    Administrator Ross's Avatar
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    Re: Concrete dome holding nuclear waste will leak.

    ***Fred Coleman, Founding Partner, Beloved Friend***
    who passed away 11/10/2016
    Rest in Peace

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