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19 July 2022

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Marshall Islands remembers devastation of nuke tests

Tuesday 1 March 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Marshall Islands, Regional

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Marshall Islands remembers devastation of nuke tests
Photo: STF / AFP

The Marshall Islands is today remembering those affected by nuclear testing in their country.

The Marshall Islands is today remembering those affected by nuclear testing in their country.

1st March is a national holiday to allow people to commemorate Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day.

It was 1st March, 1954, when the United States most powerful hydrogen bomb detonated over Bikini Atoll, where testing had begun in 1946.

The people had been moved off Bikini in 1946.

The huge test, called Castle Bravo, led to the contamination of 15 islands and atolls, resulting in people being evacuated from more distant islands, such as Rongelap.

Enewetak became the site for the testing after Bikini had become too contaminated.

In the 1970s some residents were allowed to return, only to be moved off again ten years later, due to contamination.

The last church service on Bikini Atoll shortly before the islanders were removed by the U.S. Navy for the start of nuclear weapons testing on the atoll. Photo: US Navy.
The last church service on Bikini Atoll shortly before the islanders were removed by the U.S. Navy for the start of nuclear weapons testing on the atoll. Photo: US Navy. Photo: Supplied/ Giff Johnson

Ever since the testing began there have been concerns at the health risks due to fallout and radiation.

Marshallese have suffered from forced relocation, burns, birth defects, and cancers.

The national holiday is seen as a chance to commemorate the victims and survivors of the nuclear testing, to promote peace, and acknowledge the nuclear legacy.

The National Nuclear Commissioner Alson Kelen said the people of the Marshall Islands are still deeply affected by the testing.

Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day is a national holiday in the Marshall Islands it commemorates the March 1 Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1954.
Majuro residents joined in a parade down the main road in the capital on March 1 2017 to mark the Bravo hydrogen bomb test in 1954. Photo: Isaac Marty

He said they will never forget the resilience and strength of the nuclear frontline communities who continue to fight for dignity, respect and social justice.