The small Pacific islands left uninhabitable after nuclear testing

nuclear island pacific

The small mysterious islands were used for testing after World War Two (Picture: Getty Images)

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies the world’s most nuclear contaminated island, devastated since the days of the Hiroshima and Nagisaki nuclear attacks.

The small coral islands of Bikini Atoll have remained uninhabited since 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped in Japan and the United States started using them for nuclear tests.

The tiny population of 167 people were advised to move elsewhere by the military and told the tests were necessary to prevent any future wars.

No one has lived there since.

The islands met the military’s criteria because it was under US control – as detailed in a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and within 1,000 miles of a base from which bombers could take off.

The lagoon the encircled atoll offered a protected harbor for Navy ships, including vessels used as targets.

But residents who were moved from the island at the time were angry, however their leader King Judah at the time said: ‘We will go, believing that everything is in the hands of God.’

Although it was promised residents could eventually return one day, they were instead permanently relocated to other islands in the Marshalls.

Island and sea shot of Bikini Atoll taken while scuba Diving the Wrecks of Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, sunk from Operation Crossroads nuclear testing.

The beautiful islands as seen today (Picture: Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: 150-megaton thermonuclear explosion, Bikini Atoll, l March 1854. Unexpected spread of fallout led to awareness of, and research into, radioactive pollution.  UNO photography.  (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Nuclear explosions on the islands became the norm (Picture: Getty Images)

23rd March 1954: Members of the Japanese Scientific Research Institute examining a fish caught in Bikini Atoll, the South Pacific Ocean with a Geiger counter.  The fish has a high level of radioactivity after being adversely affected by an atom bomb test conducted in Bikini Atoll.  (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Scientists examined tuna fish for remnants of radioactivity (Picture: Getty Images / Hulton Archive)

Between 1946 and 1958, the US detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands, including 20 hydrogen bombs.

The Castle Bravo H-bomb test was conducted on the islands on March 1, 1954, and reached a yield of 15 megatons – 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb which destroyed Nagisaki in 1945.

The bomb’s blast in the air is estimated to be the equivalent of 216 Empire State Buildings, according to Stanford Magazine.

While some residents were allowed to return in the late 1960s, this was cut short because it was later found Cesium-137 in returnees’ bodies had increased by 75 percent.


Residents were relocated because of the bombs (Picture: Getty Images)

Jul 25, 1946 - Vintage American history photo of a nuclear weapon test by the American military at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia.  The explosion was part of Operation Crossroads.

The bombs have left behind radioactive traces to this day (Picture: Getty Images / Stocktrek Images)

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Bikini Atoll, Us Navy Evacuating Bikini Civil Population In Pacific (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Many residents were evacuated before testing started (Picture: Getty Images)

Residents were then relocated 450 miles away to the Kilis islands and scientists say it is still not safe to return to Bikini Atoll to this day.

‘Probably the most robust finding from our research is that Bikini Island must be cleaned up if people are to live there again,’ says Ivana Nikolic Hughes, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Columbia University and Director of the K-1 Project Center for Nuclear Studies.

‘This is based on levels of Cesium-137 in the food, background gamma radiation, and presence of various isotopes in soil and ocean sediment.’

Since 2010, Bikini Atoll has been a UNESCO world heritage site, a reminder of the fearsome power of nuclear weapons and their influence on modern civilisation.

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