A poison in our island
In the late 1970s, Runit Island, on the remote Enewetak Atoll, was the scene of the largest nuclear clean-up in United States history.
Highly contaminated debris left over from dozens of atomic weapons tests was dumped into a 100-metre wide bomb crater on the tip of the uninhabited island.
US Army engineers sealed it up with a half-metre thick concrete cap almost the size of an Australian football ground, then left the island.
Now with sea levels rising, water has begun to penetrate the dome.
A report commissioned by the US Department of Energy in 2013 found that radioactive materials were leeching out, threatening the already tenuous existence of Enewetak locals.
“That dome is the connection between the nuclear age and the climate change age,” says Marshall Islands climate change activist Alson Kelen.
“The bottom of the dome is just what was left behind by the nuclear weapons explosion,” says Michael Gerrard, the chair of Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York.
“It’s permeable soil. There was no effort to line it. And therefore, the seawater is inside the dome.”