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 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 very first US hydrogen bomb test vaporised the islet of Elugelab in 1952. Then Bikini Atoll became the site of the country’s most powerful hydrogen bomb detonation, 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 and marine 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 its 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.