Leaking nuclear waste dome in the Marshall Islands

This dome contains tons of radioactive waste — and it's starting to crack… Here's the threatening legacy of years of US nuclear testing.

Leaking nuclear waste?!

What’s happening to the Marshall Islands?

The Marshall Islands, an archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, were originally supervised by the United States from 1947 to 1986 along with the Marianas and the Carolines (excluding Guam). Since declaring itself a presidential republic with free association with the United States, the Marshall Islands have membership in the United Nations and the Pacific Community. However, the United States used this relationship to their advantage. Between 1946 and 1958, the Pentagon dropped 67 nuclear bombs, tested a dozen biological weapons and dumped tons of irradiated soil from Nevada on the archipelago.

The United States then gathered the most radioactive waste in this crater sealed with a dome. This crater, called the "Runit Dome,” is threatening to crack open because of global warming. Radioactive materials are already leaking out and the soil around the dome is highly contaminated. This so-called “tomb” is the legacy of American nuclear testing during the Cold War. Nowadays, the dome is at risk of collapsing under the pressure of rising sea levels. In fact, the Marshall Islands could be entirely submerged by the end of the century, all 70 square miles of them. With the 2018 census reporting a population of around 58,500 people, many homes and lives would be lost.

Too late to say sorry?

The American government maintains that responsibility for the dome now lies with the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese government contests this and is trying to obtain compensation for the health and environmental effects of the nuclear testing. Although the American Congress launched an inquiry into the risk that this dome represents in December 2019, to this day, the United States have never officially apologized to the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands currently have laws in place to protect the environment including a $10 thousand penalty fee for each day that the hazardous waste violation continues.


March 7, 2020 2:30 PM