WASHINGTON – U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Doug Domenech announced that Interior has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide $1,689,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding to conduct a radiochecmical analysis of groundwater surrounding and in the Cactus Crater waste-containment structure on Runit Island in Enewetak Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
“The U.S. Departments of the Interior and Energy are partnering on this important analysis of Runit Dome so that we can be responsive to both the U.S. Congress and concerns expressed by the Enewetak community in the Marshall Islands,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech.
During the period of 1947 to 1958, the United States conducted 43 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests at Enewetak Atoll. Prior to populations resettling in Enewetak in 1980, contaminated surface soil and radioactive debris were removed from Enewetak and surrounding islands, mixed with cement, and buried inside Cactus Crater above and below sea level. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cactus Crater, also known as Runit Dome, was then transferred to the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands under the Compact of Free Association. In 2012, in response to concerns raised by the Enewetak community about the structural integrity of Runit Dome and possible adverse impacts on the environment and human health, Congress enacted Public Law 112-149 to provide continued monitoring of the structure. Since 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy has monitored conditions at Runit Dome.
The FY 2019 funding by the Office of Insular Affairs will leverage Department of Energy experts to conduct a radiochemical analysis and perform an engineering survey to assess the integrity of the structure. Monitoring will take approximately 18 months and, as required under the law, Energy will submit a subsequent report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, describing the results of the radiochemical analysis and provide a determination as to any significant risks to the people of Enewetak.
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.