Nuclear Test Site Applies for World Heritage Status

Sunday, February 22, 2009
Castle Bravo (1954)

The United Nations World Heritage List honors 878 cultural and natural sites that have “outstanding universal value.” Examples include the Acropolis in Greece, the Taj Mahal in India, Stonehenge in England and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. So it may seem jarring that the Marshall Islands has asked that Bikini Atoll be granted World Heritage status. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the islands, including Castle Bravo (1954), the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S., and a radiological accident that caused the death of a Japanese fisherman and forced the evacuation of two atolls. The Marshall Islands application to UNESCO, first filed in 2005, argues that the tests shaped the history of the entire world: “Bikini is a symbol of nuclear colonialism in the Pacific; a time when weapons of poison and mass destruction were tested far from the home shores of the nations testing them.” The nomination of Bikini Atoll is not as far-fetched as it may seem, considering that UNESCO has already granted World Heritage recognition to the Auschwitz Birkenau Nazi Extermination Camp and to the Genbaku Dome, the only building to survive the Hiroshima atomic bomb.



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