Nuclear Clouds Conjure Old Memories

by Dom on April 16, 2011

After being the only country to have nuclear weapons used against it in war, the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant has some real significance for the Japanese, and more than a little bit of irony. The meltdown has ramifications further afield. For some of the Pacific’s smaller island states, it has dug up some old memories that have, outside the region at least, been long forgotten.

Since the earthquake and tsunami that decimated large parts of the Japanese cost, the risks and fear of radioactive fallout drifting over Asia and the islands of the Pacific has been made to look less serious than it was initially thought. Or less serious than it was made out to be by the media. Reports have surfaced from Guam and CNMI about heightened radiation levels, and concerns for those already suffering testing conducted on Bikini Atoll 60-odd years ago. Without taking anything away from the problems facing Japan, there are many in Kwajalein and Tahiti who are all too acutely aware of the suffering radiation can cause, and curse its continued manipulation and use.

For the people of Rongelap, Bikini and Moruroa, the impacts of nuclear technology have been severe and long lasting. For Japan, the benefits of nuclear technology are clear, despite the experiences of early August 1945 still holding a dominant place in the collective memory. The people of Bikini were told that their atoll was needed “for the good of mankind and to end all world wars” prior to being shipped away. It must feel like they were misled with a snappy line; anyone remember the war to end war? The security of the rest of us cost them their homeland.

So, where is this post going? The point of rehashing all this is simple. The anniversary of the Castle Bravo tests was March 1st, so the timing isn’t really that poignant, but the point is this: Chernobyl and Three Mile Island provided us with a shock and a scare, but have really had a limited impact due to isolation and containment. Fukushima has reignited the nuclear debate at a crucial time in that looked like a nuclear renaissance.

For many in the Pacific, the impact of irradiation has been a daily reality for generations. Testing in the Pacific has contaminated homelandsland, making them unliveable and practically un-visit-able for some people’s lifetimes. But the rets of us seem to forget this easily. There are populations in the Pacific still dispossessed because of nuclear technologies, and maybe this is a good time to revisit how they are treated and recognised.

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