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To: Prime Minister Jacinda Adern
Preserve the future of the Pacific Ocean
The Government of New Zealand needs to take a stand to ensure that the United States clean up the nuclear mess they created and stand by their promise to the people in the Marshal Islands. We must act now to preserve the future of the Pacific Ocean and everything that lives within and surrounding it.
Why is this important?
The Runit Dome, aka "Cactus Dome" or locally "The Tomb", is a 46 cm thick dome of concrete at sea level, encapsulating an estimated 73,000 m3 of radioactive debris, including some plutonium-239. The debris stems from nuclear tests conducted in the Enewetak Atoll by the United States between 1946 and 1958.
From 1977 to 1980, loose waste and top soil debris scraped off from six different islands in the Enewetak Atoll was transported here, mixed with concrete and stored in the nuclear blast crater of the "Cactus" test from May 6 1958. 4,000 US servicemen were involved in the cleanup and it took three years to complete. The waste-filled crater was finally entombed in concrete.
In 1982, a US government task force raised concern about a probable breach if a severe typhoon were to hit the island. In 2013, a report by the US Department of Energy found that the concrete dome had weathered with minor cracking of the structure.
Leaking and breaching of the dome, which is inevitable due to rising sea levels, could disperse plutonium, a radioactive element that is also a very toxic heavy metal. This would be enough to contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean.
The cleaning operation in the 1970s only removed an estimated 0.8 percent of the total transuranic waste in the Enewetak atoll.One particular concern is that, in order to save costs, the original plan to line the porous bottom crater with concrete was abandoned. Since the bottom of the crater consists of permeable soil, seawater is inside the dome.