WASHINGTON, D.C.—HOUSE AND SENATE PASS FALEOMAVAEGA BILL TO PROVIDE UTROK ATOLL WITH A NOAA VESSEL
Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House and Senate have now passed H.R. 2584, a bill he introduced which would assist the people from Utrők Atoll as they continue efforts to resettle and rehabilitate their islands as a result of the effects of the United States nuclear testing in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
“I would like to thank Chairman Richard Pombo and Ranking Member Nick Rahall of the Resources Committee for their continued support of PacificIsland issues,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.“I would also like to thank my distinguished colleagues and co-sponsors--Congressmen Anibal Acevedo-Vila (PR), Dan Burton (IN), John Doolittle (CA), Elton Gallegly (CA), Jeff Flake (AZ) and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (Guam).”
“I would also like to thank Congressman Tom Udall (NM) for managing and members of the Senate for voting in favor of this legislation.The purpose of this legislation is to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to convey a decommissioned, operable NOAA vessel to the Government of Utrők.The vessel will be used to provide support for radiological monitoring, rehabilitation and resettlement of Utrők, an atoll that is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.”
“During the 1940s and 50s, many of the MarshallIsland atolls were devastated by the effects of U.S. nuclear testing activities.From 1946 to 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, representing nearly 80 percent of all atmospheric tests ever conducted by the United States.If one were to calculate the net yield of these tests, it would be equivalent to the detonation of 1.7 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.”
“On March 1, 1954 at at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the United States detonated the Bravo shot, a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.Acknowledged as the greatest nuclear explosion ever detonated, the Bravo test vaporized 6 islands and created a mushroom cloud 25 miles in diameter.”
“Residents of Utrők atoll were forced to evacuate 72 hours after the miscalculated Bravo shot.Two months later, the U.S. assured the people of Utrők that it was safe to return home.The U.S. now acknowledges that it was a grave mistake to return the people to Utrok only 2 months after the detonation of Bravo.”
“Utrők residents have since suffered severe health problems and genetic anomalies.Today, the people of Utrők are seeking to rehabilitate their home island so that it is a safe place to live.Last year, a comprehensive scientific report recommended a potassium fertilizer treatment to accompany the ongoing resettlement process on Utrők, a treatment which would suppress the remaining radioactive Cesium-137 in the soil and prevent its further uptake in the food supply.”
“In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Utrők that committed the DOE to build a Whole Body Counting (WBC) facility in order to monitor radioactivity levels in the people of Utrők.This new facility is located about 265 miles away in Majuro and will be used to ensure that the potassium fertilizer regime is effective and the administration of the fertilizer treatment is done properly.”
“However, Utrők residents are responsible for their own transportation to Majuro.Transportation by plane is expensive and available only once per week.Air service is also unreliable as the Utrők runway is in disrepair and the airline often declines to land.Travel by commercial ships, although less expensive, is infrequent.”
“One solution to help facilitate transport between Utrők and Majuro is to transfer a decommissioned NOAA vessel to the Utrők Atoll Local Government.In addition to transport of Utrők residents to the WBC facility, the vessel will be used for moving several tons of potassium fertilizer, transporting equipment and materials for radiological remediation, and transporting USDA food supplies.Because of the Cesium-137 contamination in locally grown food, at least 50% of the diet of Utrők residents must be imported to limit the risk of radiological poisoning.”
“The Utrők Atoll Local Government fully supports this measure and adopted a resolution (022-03) on July 4th 2003 stating that the NOAA vessel transfer would be ‘one of the crucial needs that will fully support our future goals to develop, rehabilitate and resettle the atoll after the aftermath of the Bravo fallout.’The Utrők Government also expects the ship to be available for use by other atolls for their respective communities, who will help pay for the ongoing maintenance of the vessel.”
“As the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I am hopeful that this bill will remind Congress of our ongoing responsibility to the people of RMI for the mistakes the United States made regarding its nuclear testing activities in the Asia Pacific region.Once again, I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for voting in favor of this important legislation and I join with the people of American Samoa in wishing our friends from Utrok the very best,” the Congressman concluded.