Home / news / Nuclear Tomb Is Breaking Open – The Marshall Islands say that plutonium is leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the concrete dome the U.S. built to dispose of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Tomb Is Breaking Open – The Marshall Islands say that plutonium is leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the concrete dome the U.S. built to dispose of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Tomb Is Breaking Open – The Marshall Islands say that plutonium is leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the concrete dome the U.S. built to dispose of nuclear waste.

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19 comments

  1. > The U.S. has said The Tomb is now the Marshall Islands’ responsibility.

    Convenient.

  2. > “It’s hard to imagine that the U.S. would consider its actions sufficient if the roles were reversed,” Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at Stevens Institute of Technology, told Motherboard in a Twitter DM. “That somehow the world’s richest nation can’t seem to find the political will to make things right with a small, poor nation that sacrificed much in the name of American national security is a travesty. U.S. officials in the Cold War were quick to talk about how important the testing was to American survival, but somehow that importance never translated into a sincere gratitude to the suffering Marshallese.”

    This is near Bikini Atoll where we detonated the world’s second largest thermonuclear explosion, [Castle Bravo](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bravo). We miscalculated some parameters and wound up giving these folks large wafts of nuclear fallout. This quote is also from this article:

    >“It was only a matter of two or three years before women on the island started to give birth to things less than human,” a Marshall Islands woman told diplomats on a fact finding mission decades later. Birth defects are so common on the islands that the people have a number of words to describe them, among them marlins, devils, jellyfish children, and grape babies.

    Nuclear radiation leaking into the ocean is something that should concern everyone anyway, but it’d be a big plus to try and do right by these folks.

  3. The US military who built the tomb were not told they were dealing with radioactive materials and Veterans Affairs and the Govt. refuse to pay them any sort of reparations for it. If you have in your service record that you were in Bikini Atoll you are not eligible for any sort of compensation for the horrible cancers you now inevitably have.
    Edit- this is not to discredit the suffering that is happening in the islands.

  4. Never heard of The Tomb / Marshall Islands before but wow article is like something from of a horror film, topped off with the fact the US wants nothing to do with any of it… jesus christ.

    Definitely going to spend some time googling this one.

  5. I quote from the article a fact that bears repeating every time the Marshall Islands is mentioned:

    “The Nuclear Claims Tribunal, an independent ruling body with the authority to arbitrate legal relations between the United States and the Marshall Islands, awarded the Marshall Islands $2 billion in damages in 2001. Washington has paid only $4 million.”

    The Nuclear Claims Tribunal was set up by the US to mediate the islander’s claims. The US military really fucked these people over. A lot of people now sick were deliberately mislead and asked to move back nearby the irradiated areas so that scientists could study the long term effects of radiation exposure.

  6. I was at a conference where Dr. Hilde Heine, President of the Marshall Islands, gave a keynote address. She said that the existential threat of climate change was her island’s reality. But more than that, she said, “I am scared that, when we disappear, the world will not care.”

    It would seem like their fears are now a reality.

  7. “And in the end, the stupidity, ignorance and greed of those with the most money and power will have extinguished life for all.”

  8. > According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, climate change is breaking that dome open. Rising sea levels and temperatures are cracking open The Tomb, threatening to spill nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean.

    Add it to the list. Climate mitigation is cheaper than dealing with all the numerous consequences of [6 ºC warming](https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/16/is-it-too-late-to-prevent-climate-change/).

    The consensus among [scientists](http://bush.tamu.edu/istpp/scholarship/journals/ClimateScientistsPerspectives_ClimaticChange.pdf) and [economists](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf) on [carbon pricing](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_price)^§ to mitigate climate change is similar to [the consensus among climatologists](http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/) that human activity is responsible for global warming. Putting the price [upstream](https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323611604578396401965799658) where the fossil fuels enter the market makes it simple, easily enforceable, and bureaucratically lean. Returning the revenue as an equitable dividend [offsets any regressive effects of the tax](http://www.nber.org/papers/w9152.pdf) (in fact, [~60% of the public would receive more in dividend than they paid in tax](http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081648#s7)) and allows for a higher carbon price (which [is what matters for climate mitigation](https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/pdf/10.1142/S201000781840002X)) because [the public isn’t willing to pay anywhere near what’s needed otherwise](http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/Is-the-Public-Willing-to-Pay-to-Help-Fix-Climate-Change-.aspx). Enacting a [border tax](http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2026879) would protect domestic businesses from foreign producers not saddled with similar pollution taxes, and also [incentivize those countries](http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/handle/205761) to enact their own. And [**a carbon tax is expected to spur innovation**](https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190827111120.htm).

    [Conservative estimates](http://rdcu.be/cLYO) are that failing to mitigate climate change will cost us 10% of GDP over 50 years, [starting about now](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf). In contrast, carbon taxes may actually *boost* GDP, if the revenue is [returned as an equitable dividend to households](http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/jun/13/how-revenue-neutral-carbon-tax-creates-jobs-grows-economy) (the [poor tend to spend money when they’ve got it](http://www.econ2.jhu.edu/people/ccarroll/papers/cstwMPC.pdf), which [boosts economic growth](https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf)) not to mention [create jobs](https://econ.ucalgary.ca/manageprofile/sites/econ.ucalgary.ca.manageprofile/files/unitis/publications/1-7729354/Yamazaki_CarbonTax_JEEM_2017.pdf) and [save lives](https://globalchange.mit.edu/news-media/jp-news-outreach/shift-renewable-electricity-win-win-statewide-level).

    Taxing carbon [is in each nation’s own best interest](http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp15105.pdf) (it [saves lives at home](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09499-x)) and [many nations have already started](https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/29687/9781464812927.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y), which [can have knock-on effects in other countries](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf). In poor countries, [taxing carbon is progressive even *before* considering smart revenue uses, because only the “rich” can afford fossil fuels](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf) in the first place. We [won’t wean ourselves off fossil fuels without a carbon tax](http://news.mit.edu/2016/carbon-tax-stop-using-fossil-fuels-0224), the [longer we wait to take action the more expensive it will be](http://rdcu.be/cZjG). Each year we delay costs [~$900 billion](https://cla.umn.edu/heller-hurwicz/news-events/news/policy-brief-calibrating-price-climate-risk).

    [It’s the smart thing to do](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0095069698910580), and the IPCC report made clear [pricing carbon is **necessary** if we want to meet our 1.5 ºC target](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/12/SR15_TS_High_Res.pdf).

    Contrary to [popular belief](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralistic_ignorance#Examples) the main barrier isn’t lack of public support. But [we can’t keep hoping others will solve this problem for us](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_responsibility). We need to take the necessary steps to make this dream a reality:

    [**Lobby**](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/?tfa_3590416195188=reddit-CarbonTax&utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=CarbonTax) for the change we need. [Lobbying works](https://sociology.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/friends_or_foes-how_social_movement_allies_affect_the_passage_of_legislation_in_the_u._s._congress.pdf), and you [don’t need a lot of money to be effective](http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.1967&rep=rep1&type=pdf) (though it does help to [educate yourself on effective tactics](http://www.congressfoundation.org/storage/documents/CMF_Pubs/cmf-citizen-centric-advocacy.pdf)). If you’re too busy to go through the [free training](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/new-member/#climateadvocatetraining), sign up for [text alerts](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/text/) to join coordinated call-in days ([it works](http://www.congressfoundation.org/storage/documents/CMF_Pubs/cmf-citizen-centric-advocacy.pdf)) or set yourself a monthly reminder to [write a letter](https://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper?language=en) to your elected officials. According to NASA climatologist and climate activist [Dr. James Hansen](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen), becoming an [active volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/?tfa_3590416195188=reddit-CarbonTax&utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=CarbonTax) is [the most important thing you can do for climate change](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4DAW1A6Ca8), and [climatologist Dr. Michael Mann](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_E._Mann) calls its [Carbon Fee & Dividend](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fee_and_dividend) policy [an example of sort of visionary policy that’s needed](https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/03/climate-change-requires-collective-action-more-than-single-acts-column/1275965001/).

    § The IPCC (AR5, WGIII) [Summary for Policymakers](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf) states with “high confidence” that tax-based policies are effective at decoupling GHG emissions from GDP (see p. 28). [Ch. 15](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter15.pdf) has a more complete discussion. The U.S. [National Academy of Sciences, one of the most respected scientific bodies in the world, has also called for a carbon tax](https://www.nap.edu/download/21712). According to [IMF research](https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/05/how-much-does-world-subsidize-oil-coal-and-gas/589000/), most of the $5.2 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels come from not taxing carbon as we should. There is general agreement among economists on carbon taxes whether you consider [economists with expertise in climate economics](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf), [economists with expertise in resource economics](http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.381.484&rep=rep1&type=pdf), or [economists from all sectors](https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Doris_Geide-Stevenson/publication/261884738_Consensus_Among_Economists-An_Update/links/56a7f3fa08ae860e0255a8e3.pdf). It is literally [Econ 101](http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ101/herriges/Lectures10/Chapter%2017H%20-%20Externalities.pdf). The idea [won a Nobel Prize](http://environment.yale.edu/news/article/william-nordhaus-wins-nobel-prize-for-economics-of-climate-change/).

  9. Don’t worry bros, the dome is useless

    >The reason, according to the report, was that the radiation inside the dome was “dwarfed” by the radiation in the sediments in the lagoon. Thus a leak from the dome would be no added threat because it is dirtier on the outside than the inside.

  10. Christ, someone call the director of “Chernobyl” looks like they’ve got another documentary to start making

  11. So I wanted to trace back to the original source of the science on this to learn more on the severity of what’s going on. Here they are:

    > https://www.pnas.org/content/116/31/15425#sec-13

    >https://www.pnas.org/content/116/31/15420.short?rss=1

    >https://www.pnas.org/content/116/31/15414.short?rss=1%C2%A0

    Interestingly, those studies concluded that, while they are seeing elevated levels of multiple radionuclides, none of them are high enough or in the areas as inhabited islands to be the cause of the claims in this original LAT article.

    So, this part:

    >Over the last 15 months, a reporting team from the Los Angeles Times and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism made five trips to the Marshall Islands, where they documented extensive coral bleaching, fish kills and algae blooms — as well as major disease outbreaks, including the nation’s largest recorded epidemic of dengue fever.

    Seems like it has nothing to do with the nuclides. In fact, the ocean things they are seeing is more likely to be due to climate change and ocean acidification, really.

  12. Greatest Generation doesn’t like to pay its bills.

  13. > The U.S. has said The Tomb is now the Marshall Islands’ responsibility.

    What the actual fuck.

  14. They are not wrong and historically speaking this is not the first time. The last time this happened we wrote it off and said it wasn’t our problem and then granted the people of The Marshall Islands their Independence.

    ​

    So as to detract from the nuclear cesspool we left them with.

    ​

    Reading this makes me sick to my stomach. We should be there, cleaning up our long forgotten mess. None of those people deserve what they have been born into.

  15. This article deliberately makes the title sound dramatic. Many people will think that the words “is breaking open” means that the structure is already compromised and is actually leaking plutonium into the ocean. Shame on Vice for making it sound almost like it is a “concrete container leaking some green liquid into the ocean”.

    The fact is that the soil around the dome is more radioactive than the dome itself. It is a solid chunk of concrete mixed with topsoil from test sites. Even if the dome somehow completely collapses, the risk to the surrounding environment will not increase.

    However, a risk has been identified that if the sea level rises considerably, it could contaminate the groundwater. In such a case, the toxicity of plutonium is more a concern than the radioactivity. Sea levels are rising relatively slowly and the potential risk has already been identified.

    It sucks that people will confuse the rushed testing of nuclear weapons and during the cold war with modern nuclear power.

  16. Get ole Rick Perry on it! Oops.

  17. That’s a disaster. I don’t get why they have to focus on climate change as being the main culprit. Reinforced concrete only lasts 70-100 years before cracking becomes a serious issue. The Tomb is simply approaching the end of its usable life and the marine environment plays a role in speeding things up.

  18. The goal is to make Godzilla a documentary.

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