16 May, 2019
Cold War ‘nuclear coffin’ leaking radioactive waste from US tests into Pacific Ocean – UN chief
© Giff Johnson / US Defense Nuclear Agency / AFP
A massive concrete dome built during the Cold War to contain waste from US Nuclear testing has degraded and began leaking nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has confirmed.
While the imposing structure at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands may look like something from a James Bond movie, Guterres described it as a “kind of coffin:” a stern reminder of the aftermath of American atomic weapons testing.
The soil irradiated by the tests and ash from the fallout were dumped into a crater which was then capped with 18 inches of concrete, measures that have proved ineffective at containing the waste in the long run. The bottom of the crater was reportedly never lined at all.
Guterres confirmed the disturbing information while speaking to students in Fiji as a part of a tour of the South Pacific focusing on climate change and environmental issues. The leakage, according to Guterres, has already begun to have its effect.
Our oceans are in serious trouble, from coral bleaching to biodiversity loss. Healthy oceans save lives and livelihoods. We need urgent #ClimateAction to protect our oceans – and our future. pic.twitter.com/vakISTezL8
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 15, 2019
The consequences have been quite dramatic, in relation to health, in relation to the poisoning of waters in some areas.
Aside from being used to store the dangerous atomic waste, Guterres discussed how the Pacific had been victimized while under US administration. The islands and atolls far off the southeast coast of Japan such as Enewetak were the sites of 67 American nuclear weapons tests that took place between 1946-58.
One such test was the 1954 ‘Bravo’ hydrogen bomb, which remains the most powerful US-tested atomic weapon. Its explosion was 1,000 times bigger than the atomic bombs used on Japan.
While Guterres had no specific recommendations for how to minimize the impact, he warned that action needs to be taken soon. A powerful storm in the region could end up damaging the cover further, which would have devastating results for the environment.