44 U.S. nuclear tests leave negative legacy at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States carried out 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, an island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. The nation’s Bikini Atoll, where the “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test was conducted, is well known, since crew members of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (The Lucky Dragon No. 5), a Japanese tuna fishing boat, and other boats were exposed to radioactive fallout from the test. But 44, or two-thirds, of those tests were performed at and around Enewetak Atoll. The total force of the nuclear explosions at Enewetak was 32,000 kilotons of TNT, which is equivalent to 2,000 times the power of the 16-kiloton Hiroshima bomb.

While living in Bikini Atoll is still prohibited, in 1980 residents of Enewetak Atoll began returning to areas where decontamination work was carried out. They are living on the islands with the negative legacy left behind by the nuclear tests.

(Originally published on February 25, 2017)