In a move closely related to the beginnings of the Cold War, the United States of America decided to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago.
Nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll consisted of the detonation of 23 nuclear weapons by the United States between 1946 and 1958 on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Tests occurred at 7 test sites on the reef itself, on the sea, in the air, and underwater. The test weapons produced a combined fission yield of 42.2 Mt of TNT in explosive power.
The United States and its allies were engaged in a Cold War nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union to build more advanced bombs from 1947 until 1991. The first series of tests over Bikini Atoll in July 1946 was codenamed Operation Crossroads. Able was dropped from an aircraft and detonated 520 ft (160 m) above the target fleet. The second, Baker, was suspended under a barge. It produced a large Wilson cloud and contaminated all of the target ships. Chemist Glenn T. Seaborg, the longest-serving chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, called the second test “the world’s first nuclear disaster.
Bikini Atoll island
Bikini Atoll, sometimes known as Eschscholtz Atoll between the 1800s and 1946, is a coral reef in the Marshall Islands consisting of 23 islands surrounding a 229.4-square-mile central lagoon.
The Atoll is at the northern end of the Ralik Chain, approximately 530 miles (850 km) northwest of the capital Majuro. Three families were resettled on Bikini island in 1970, totaling about 100 residents. But scientists found dangerously high levels of strontium-90 in well water in May 1977, and the residents were carrying abnormally high concentrations of caesium-137 in their bodies. They were evacuated in 1980. The atoll is occasionally visited today by divers and a few scientists, and is occupied by a handful of caretakers.
Bikini Atoll before and after
According to UNESCO They choose Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. After the displacement of the local inhabitants, 23 nuclear tests were carried out from 1946 to 1958,.
The cumulative force of the tests in all of the Marshall Islands was equivalent to 7,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. Following the use of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Bikini tests confirmed that mankind was entering a “nuclear era”. The many military remains bear witness to the beginnings of the Cold War, the race to develop weapons of mass destruction and a geopolitical balance based on terror.
The violence exerted on the natural, geophysical and living elements by nuclear weapons illustrates the relationship which can develop between man and the environment. This is reflected in the ecosystems and the terrestrial, marine and underwater landscapes of Bikini Atoll.
The nuclear tests changed the history of Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands, through the displacement of inhabitants, and the human irradiation and contamination caused by radionuclides produced by the tests.
The Bikini Atoll tests, and tests carried out in general during the Cold War, gave rise to a series of images and symbols of the nuclear era. They also led to the development of widespread international movements advocating disarmament.
Bikini Atoll is an outstanding example of a nuclear test site. It has many military remains and characteristic terrestrial and underwater landscape elements. It is tangible testimony of the birth of the Cold War and it bears testimony to the race to develop increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. In the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, the Bikini Atoll site confirmed that mankind was entering a nuclear era. It also bears witness to the consequences of the nuclear tests on the civil populations of Bikini and the Marshall Islands, in terms of population displacement and public-health issues.
A strange difference for fish in Bikini Atoll
Stanford University professor Steve Palumbi led a study in 2017 that reported on ocean life that seems highly resilient to the effects of radiation poisoning. The team described substantial diversity in the marine ecosystem, with animals appearing healthy to the naked eye.
According to Palumbi, the atoll’s “lagoon is full of schools of fish all swirling around the living coral. In a strange way they are protected by the history of this place, the fish populations are better than in some other places because they have been left alone, the sharks are more abundant and the coral are big.
It is a remarkable environment, quite odd.” Both corals and long-lived animals such as coconut crabs should be vulnerable to radiation-induced cancers, and understanding how they have thrived might lead to discoveries about preserving DNA. Pambuli notes that the Bikini Atoll is “an ironic setting for research that might help people live longer”.
PBS documented field work undertaken by Palumbi and his graduate student Elora López on Bikini Atoll for the second episode (“Violent”) of their series Big Pacific. The episode explored “species, natural phenomena and behaviors of the Pacific Ocean” and the way that the team is using DNA sequencing to study the rate and pattern of any mutations. López suggested possible explanations for the health of the marine life to The Stanford Daily, such as a mechanism for DNA repair that is superior to that possessed by humans, or a method of maintaining a genome in the face of nuclear radiation.