Background #gamma #radiation and #soil activity #measurements in the northern #Marshall Islands (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, abstract)

[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Background gamma radiation and soil activity measurements in the northern Marshall Islands

Maveric K. I. L. Abella, Monica Rouco Molina, Ivana Nikolić-Hughes, Emlyn W. Hughes, and Malvin A. Ruderman

PNAS first published July 15, 2019 / DOI:

Contributed by Malvin A. Ruderman, May 15, 2019 (sent for review March 1, 2019; reviewed by Joanna Kiryluk and Ernst Sichtermann)

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From 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, a remote constellation of atolls in the Pacific Ocean that was then a US trust territory. Two atolls, Bikini and Enewetak, were used as ground zero for the tests, which caused unprecedented environmental contamination and, for the indigenous peoples of the islands, long-term adverse health effects. In addition to the populations of Bikini and Enewetak, the people of Rongelap and Utirik were also affected by radioactive fallout from the largest nuclear test the United States has ever conducted, the Bravo test held March 1, 1954. This article presents a picture of current radiological conditions by examining external gamma radiation and soil radionuclide activity concentrations.



We report on measurements of external gamma radiation on 9 islands in 4 atolls in the northern Marshall Islands, all of which were affected by the US nuclear testing program from 1946 to 1958 (Enjebi, Ikuren, and Japtan in Enewetak Atoll; Bikini and Enyu in Bikini Atoll; Naen in Rongelap Atoll; and Aon, Elluk, and Utirik in Utirik Atoll). We also report americium-241, cesium-137, plutonium-238, and plutonium-239,240 activity concentrations in the soil samples for 11 islands in 4 northern atolls (Enewetak, Japtan, Medren, and Runit in Enewetak Atoll; Bikini and Enyu in Bikini Atoll; Naen and Rongelap in Rongelap Atoll; and Aon, Elluk, and Utirik in Utirik Atoll) and from Majuro Island, Majuro Atoll in the southern Marshall Islands. Our results show low external gamma radiation levels on some islands in the Enewetak Atoll and Utirik Atoll, and elevated levels on Enjebi Island in the Enewetak Atoll, on Bikini Atoll, and on Naen Island in the Rongelap Atoll. We perform ordinary kriging on external gamma radiation measurements to provide interpolated maps. We find that radionuclides are absent from all Majuro soil samples, and that they are present at highest activity concentrations in samples from Runit and Enjebi islands (Enewetak Atoll), Bikini Island (Bikini Atoll), and Naen Island (Rongelap Atoll). We contextualize all results by making comparisons between islands and to various standards, as well as to regions of the world affected by nuclear accidents. We also discuss implications for informed decision-making by the Marshallese and local atoll governments and their people on issues pertaining to island resettlement.

Marshall Islands – cesium-137 – external gamma radiation – soil activity – plutonium

Keywords: Environmental pollution; Environmental disasters; Radiations; Radionuclides; Marshall Islands.


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Giuseppe Michieli

I am an Italian blogger, active since 2005 with main focus on emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza, SARS, antibiotics resistance, and many other global Health issues. Other fields of interest are: climate change, global warming, geological and biological sciences. My activity consists mainly in collection and analysis of news, public services updates, confronting sources and making decision about what are the 'signals' of an impending crisis (an outbreak, for example). When a signal is detected, I follow traces during the entire course of an event. I started in 2005 my blog ''A TIME'S MEMORY'', now with more than 40,000 posts and 3 millions of web interactions. Subsequently I added an Italian Language blog, then discontinued because of very low traffic and interest. I contributed for seven years to a public forum ( in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, I left the site to continue alone my data tracking job.