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Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Tests: A Case Study of UK and US Test Programs at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands, Republic of Kiribati

Alexis-Martin, B, Bolton, MB, Hawkins, D, Tisch, S and Mangioni, TL (2021) Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Tests: A Case Study of UK and US Test Programs at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands, Republic of Kiribati. Global Policy, 12 (1). pp. 106-121. ISSN 1758-5880

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Abstract

Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA conducted 33 atmospheric nuclear weapons test detonations at or close to Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands (total yield 31 megatons), formerly British colonial territories in the central Pacific region, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. Some 40,000 British, Fijian, New Zealand and US civilian and military personnel participated in the test program and 500 i-Kiribati civilians lived on Kiritimati at the time. This article reviews humanitarian and environmental consequences of the UK and US nuclear weapons testing programs in Kiribati, as well as the policy measures that have addressed them. The authors contend that policy interventions to date have not adequately addressed the needs and rights of test survivors, nor ongoing environmental concerns. They argue that the victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offer an important new opportunity for addressing the consequences of nuclear detonations in Kiribati, by focusing policy attention and constituting a new field of development assistance.

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