Bikini Island Is Still Very Radioactive Five Decades After The Atomic Bomb Tests

History |

Throughout history, one government or another had to find ways to test the effectiveness of its arsenal. Modern history alleviates us of wondering how this happened for nuclear weapons. One such major disaster was the testing of nuclear weapons on a small series of islands in the Central Pacific Ocean known as Bikini Island (which is where we get the term bikini from!). In total, author Stephen Luntz reports that 23 nuclear bomb tests were performed at this location in the middle of the 20th century.

Luntz goes on to report his findings regarding Columbia University investigations into the health and welfare of the islands on a modern basis. By estimates, the original materials used in the bombs should have deteriorated down to 25% of their original levels due to a thirty-year half-life. Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences report that 90% of the current levels of radiation on the islands are sourced from these bomb tests over fifty years ago.

Radiation levels at Bikini and the surrounding areas give scientists an overly optimistic perspective on the ability to rehabitate these islands in the near future. Only one location on the land of all the sites inspected was still in danger. Luntz identifies that many levels present there now are vastly lower than even that of the interior of New York City! Regardless, levels of contamination derived from drinking water and eating the local fish can cause harm, and still needs to be attended to.

Evacuees of the original islands are reported to be eager to return and hope that the health risks reduce as the populations of the mainland cultural centers continue to outgrow their volume limits. The biggest concern is the health risk posed by the food and water rather than the radiation levels persisting on the islands themselves. 

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