The Department of Energy has published a report assessing the risks and destruction of concrete nuclear waste storage facilities in the Marshall Islands over the past 50 years. However, the findings did little to ease the concerns of Marshall Islands leaders in the Central Pacific, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Judging from a U.S. Department of Energy report, Runit Dome, the storage facility for atomic waste produced by the United States during Cold War weapons testing is reliable and that the radioactive leaks to the nearby lagoon on the Marshall Islands are not significant.
After Congress expressed concern over the leaking dome last year, it ordered the Department of Energy to prepare a report on the structural integrity of the dome in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.
The report notes that although sea-level rise can increase storm surges, swelling and “lead to excessive wave washing of the lower parts of the dome,” there is insufficient data to determine “how these events can affect the environment”.
One of the leaders of the Marshall Islands said it was disappointed – the US Department of Energy again minimized the risks and refused to take responsibility for the Runit Dome and the leak of its contents.
We do not expect our community to feel more secure based on this report, as it does not contain any new information. The report is nothing new.
Rhea Christian-Moss, Chairperson of the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission, Government Nuclear Waste and Radiation Surveillance Commission
It was previously envisaged that the US Department of Energy would present a plan detailing the removal of radioactive substances and waste to a safer and more stable location. But that did not happen.
Terry Hamilton, lead contractor for the project’s department, said that given the “hard facts of radiation science”, existing data and information demonstrate that the risks posed by Runit Dome are unlikely to affect the health status of people living near the dome.
Last November, the Los Angeles Times published an investigation into the continued radiation legacy in the Marshall Islands and the refusal of US authorities to accept responsibility for the dangers posed by Runit Dome.
In December, Congress signed the National Defense Act for 2020, according to which the Department of Energy pledged to submit a plan to repair the dome, assess the environmental impact of the dome over the next 20 years, and assess its structure and potential risk to people who live nearby. with him. The department also had to evaluate how sea-level rise could affect the dome.
Christian Moss noted data gaps, including the level of radiation in groundwater flowing from the dome to the lagoon. In 2019, at a presentation presented to the Marshall Islands by local and U.S. officials, U.S. Department of Energy contractor Hamilton mentioned an increased level of radioactivity in giant mollusks living near the dome. The new report does not mention mollusks but says that there is not enough information to understand how leakage from the dome affects marine life.
The absence of data showing any risk does not mean that there is no risk, Christian-Moss said. The main conclusion that can be reached after studying the report is that many risks are still “unknown”.
Between 1946 and 1958, the United States blew 67 nuclear weapons on and above the Marshall Islands. 44 of these bombs were detonated on Enivetak Atoll, where Runit Dome is located.
The waste site, also known as the Tomb, has more than 3.1 million cubic feet – or 35 Olympic swimming pools – of American radioactive soil and debris, including lethal amounts of plutonium.