March 26, 2009

Marshall Islands Seek More Nuclear Compensation From The US

Officials said on Thursday that the Marshall Islands are pressing the U.S. for more compensation for the damage caused by nuclear tests, after France announced it would pay its own victims, the AFP reported.

Throughout 1946 and 1958, the U.S. conducted 67 atomic weapons tests on the atolls of Bikini and Enewetak in the Marshall Islands.

Washington has paid out more than 500 million dollars in compensation for health and other problems reported by residents of the atolls and nearby areas that were evacuated during the testing.

However, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal has run out of money and the western Pacific nation is seeking another two billion dollars in support.

This week, France was to set aside $14 million to compensate victims of nuclear tests in Algeria and French Polynesia, but officials from the Marshall Islands said it made no difference to their own campaign.

Bikini local government official Jack Niedenthal said they needed no motivation from the French.

Niedenthal said their motivation comes from the promises that were made by the Americans directly to the Bikinians that stated very clearly that the Bikinians would be like "America's children" and that they would be "taken care of forever."

Litokwa Tomeing, President of the Marshall Islands, said earlier this month that no one had received compensation for three years since U.S. funding for the claims tribunal had vanquished.

Tomeing said Bikini islanders had given up their home for the sake of world peace.

"Clearly much, much more is expected from the moral standard-bearer of the free world," he said, during a speech at the 55th anniversary of the March 1, 1954 Bravo test at Bikini, considered the biggest nuclear explosion by the U.S.

Since 2000, the U.S. Congress has stalled on a Marshall Islands petition seeking more than two billion dollars in additional compensation.

The United States had provided huge amounts to the tiny nation of some 55,000 people, on top of nearly 300 million in direct compensation under a 1986 agreement, according to Clyde Bishop, the U.S. ambassador to the Marshall Islands.

He said an additional 380 million dollars on health services was spent for the people inadvertently affected by the testing program, for environmental monitoring, and for restoration of the affected islands where there is hope of their eventual resettlement.

Since some 150,000 people took part in the tests in Algeria and French Polynesia, Niedenthal argued that while the French decision was welcome, it did not amount to much.

"The good news is that the French government has recognized the need to compensate their nuclear victims," he said. "The bad news is that it only amounts to 90 US dollars per person."


Image Caption: Mushroom cloud from the largest nuclear test the United States ever conducted, Castle Bravo.


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