At 60, legacy of Bravo still reverberates

MUnresolved issues remain to be resolved

March 1 is a national holiday in the Marshall Islands marking the day the Bravo hydrogen bomb was exploded at Bikini Atoll, spewing radioactive fallout on islands around the Marshall Islands. This year’s 60th anniversary is being marked in Majuro—and other locations around the world. For most Marshall Islanders, it will be a time to reflect on the fact that the U.S. nuclear weapons test legacy has left numerous unresolved issues for their nation.

One of the most important outstanding issues is the U.S. Congress’ lack of official response to a petition for more compensation submitted over 13 years ago to Washington by the Marshall Islands government. The point of the petition, which was submitted pursuant to the Compact of Free Association provisions, is to get the U.S. government to pay the awards adjudicated by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, which was established by the Compact. The Tribunal’s awards for only four of the most seriously affected atolls is over US$2 billion.

These have not been paid because U.S. funding provided under the 1983 agreement proved to be far short of the awards made by the Tribunal during its period of operations from the early 1990s to the late 2000s. A United Nations Special Rapporteur, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in late 2012, urged the U.S. government to pay the awards issued by the Tribunal, as well as making numerous other recommendations to address ongoing problems caused by the nuclear test legacy. The U.S. government maintains that the Compact’s US$150 million compensation fund was “full and final” and that no further compensation is needed.

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