Group wants impartial body to conduct Runit Dome study

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Robert Celestial, PARS president, said they hope to come out of this issue with a mutual understanding that asking the Department of Energy to include Guam in their study of the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is not in the best interest of the people of Guam.

The Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors, or PARS, expressed the importance of having an impartial body undertake a study on the effects of the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands instead of the government-affiliated Department of Energy.

The Runit Dome on Enewetak Atoll was built to contain nuclear waste after U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific in the 1940s and 1950s. There have been reports that radioactive waste could be leaking from the enclosed concrete structure into the ocean.

In his testimony for Resolution 300-35, PARS president Robert Celestial underscored the importance of pushing for the National Academies of Science — which is a nonprofit research organization — to perform the study.

Resolution 300-35 is seeking to study any effects on Guam of possible leaks of radioactive material from the Runit Dome. It calls for Guam’s public servants, to research, plan for, and mitigate any effects from current or future leaks out of the Dome.

Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee also said during the hearing that the resolution commits to addressing this potential crisis with a collaborative and holistic ‘One Guam’ approach and urges the federal government to include Guam in the most recent commission study on the dome.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 includes a provision that requires the Department of Energy to come up with a report on the status of the dome. U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed the 2020 NDAA on Dec. 20.

As required by the 2020 NDAA, the report should have an assessment of the following: the current condition of the outer constructs of the dome; current and long-term safety to local humans posed by the site, and; how rising sea levels might affect the dome.

It should also include the dome’s effects on the environment, and its projected effects in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Robert Celestial, PARS president, said they hope to come out of this issue with a mutual understanding that asking the Department of Energy to include Guam in their study of the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is not in the best interest of the people of Guam.

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“We’ve had past experiences with scientists, they are looking for the best interests of their government … And you’re talking about the Marshall Islands. We’re talking about FSM. We’re talking about the Mariana Islands. We’ve all been exposed. We’ve all been contaminated. Our position is … don’t get Guam included in that study,” Celestial said.

During the public hearing, Biscoe-Lee thanked Celestial for providing language that would amend the resolution — specifically to replace the Department of Energy with the Academy of Sciences.

As part of PARS, Celestial had fought for the inclusion of Guam in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, which provides compensation to cancer victims who might have been exposed to radiation during U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands following World War II.

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