Displaced by Nuclear Bomb Testing and then Flooded by Climate Change, Bikini Islanders want to Evacuate to U.S.

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Bikini Mayor Nishma Jamore (photo: Bikini Atoll Government Council)

Residents of the Bikini Islands, who have lived in exile for almost 70 years, have asked the U.S. government to relocate to America.


Their homeless existence began just after World War II, when the U.S. military used their island as a testing ground for nuclear bombs. Their Pacific paradise was the site of the 1954 15-megaton “Castle Bravo,” the largest nuclear test conducted by the U.S.


The atomic blasts rendered the Bikini atoll uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries, due to the amount of radiation unleashed by the explosions. That didn’t stop the U.S. government from trying to resettle the Bikinians back home in the 1980s, only to discover the island was still too “hot” for anyone to live there. The displaced population has spent the past 60-plus years living in the Marshall Islands.


But now the Bikinians have a new problem: climate change. Rising sea levels brought on by global warming have caused frequent flooding on Kili and the Ejit islands.


Tired of having their homes damaged by salt water, the Bikini Islanders have told the Interior Department that they want to move to the U.S. permanently. “We want to relocate to the United States,” Bikini Mayor Nishma Jamore told Marianas Variety. “Kili has been repeatedly flooded since 2012 and we’ve asked the Marshall Islands government for help with no response.”


Alson Kelen, a former mayor of the Bikinian council-in-exile, summed up the feelings of his people when he told The Guardian: “We’ve been kicked around for a while, for the last almost 70 years. And until now living in these tight communities here is the best we can get. And it’s so sad. It’s so sad. Because every time we look at this we feel like we’re sailors on a voyage, we’re still right in the middle of the ocean.”


The Bikinians want to change the terms of a trust fund set up by the federal government that would allow them to use the money to purchase property in the United States. Currently, they’re allowed to use the money only to buy land in the Marshalls.

The islanders would like to resettle in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Hawaii’s big island, places that already have populations of Bikinians.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Bikinians Want to Evacuate to U.S. (by Giff Johnson, Marianas Variety)

Losing Paradise: the People Displaced by Atomic Bombs, and Now Climate Change (by Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian)

Nuclear Test Site Applies for World Heritage Status (AllGov)


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