One famous Hawaiian politician has rejected a recent Department of Energy report which concluded that the leaked US nuclear waste warehouse on the Marshall Islands is safe for the people there.
He asked the department to conduct a more independent assessment of the location of waste.
“I think it is time for the Department of Energy to rely on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, one of two members of the Hawaiian Democratic Council, said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Gabbard spoke publicly in Congress on behalf of the Marshall Islands, which the United States used as a testing ground for a number of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
Leaking of nuclear waste warehouse
He was encouraged to return Medicaid to people from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau who worked and lived in the United States but did not have access to health care. He also played an important role in asking the Department of Energy to re-examine the safety of Runit Dome, a nuclear waste storage site that leaked in the Marshall Islands, as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
In a call for “fresh eyes” on the waste site, Gabbard referred to Terry Hamilton, who has been a contractor for the Department of Energy for nuclear issues in the Marshall Islands since 1990.
Hamilton was a contributor to the Department of Energy report, which concluded that while rising sea levels could increase storm surges and “cause excessive waves caused by waves at the bottom of the dome,” there is not enough definitive data to determine “how this event might impact the environment.”
Hamilton and his employer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, responded to requests for comment. But in an earlier email, Hamilton said the risk posed by the waste site was low “based on the argument that the total amount of fall contamination contained in Runit Dome was dwarfed by the remaining amount of drop contamination stored in marine sediments in the Enewetak lagoon.”
He added that, although he did not write documents, he provided “reports, publications, and data” which informed the Department of Energy’s conclusions.
Published in early July, the assessment referred to 27 papers and reports, 25 of which were not peer reviewed, including 13 by Hamilton. All published by agents in the US government.
The lack of independent review frustrates Gabbard and some Marshall leaders.
“The Department of Energy is very aware of public distrust of their research on the Marshall Islands, but they have never shown an interest in doing anything about it, which is including independent scientists in their studies or consulting with the Marshall community for their knowledge of the environment,” Rhea Christian- Moss in an email to The Times.
“I’m not sure credibility is their goal,” he said.
Runit Dome, located in Enewetak Atoll on Marshall Island, has more than 3.1 million cubic feet – or 35 Olympic size swimming pools – of ground and radioactive debris produced by the US, including the amount of deadly plutonium produced by 67 bomb tests between 1946 and 1958.
Encouraged by “moral obligation,” the US government cleared irrigated atolls and irradiated land before surrendering the islands back to Marshall in 1980. Marshall had voluntarily moved during the 1940s.
Waste – metal and concrete debris, and irradiated topsoil – were dumped in the atomic bomb crater on Runit Island, and covered with concrete.
Last year, Hamilton told a small audience of politicians and regulators Marshall and America that the dome might leak, and that it was vulnerable to rising sea levels and rising storm surges.