Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site

Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site

In the wake of World War II, in a move closely related to the beginnings of the Cold War, the United States of America decided to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago. After the displacement of the local inhabitants, 67 nuclear tests were carried out from 1946 to 1958, including the explosion of the first H-bomb (1952). Bikini Atoll has conserved direct tangible evidence that is highly significant in conveying the power of the nuclear tests, i.e. the sunken ships sent to the bottom of the lagoon by the tests in 1946 and the gigantic Bravo crater. Equivalent to 7,000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb, the tests had major consequences on the geology and natural environment of Bikini Atoll and on the health of those who were exposed to radiation. Through its history, the atoll symbolises the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its paradoxical image of peace and of earthly paradise. This is the first site from the Marshall Islands to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Site d’essais nucléaires de l’atoll de Bikini

Au lendemain de la Seconde guerre mondiale, en étroite relation avec les débuts de la guerre froide, les Etats-Unis décidèrent de reprendre leurs essais nucléaires dans l'océan Pacifique sur l'atoll de Bikini dans l'archipel des Marshall. Une fois les habitants déplacés, 67 essais nucléaires furent réalisés entre 1946 et 1958, dont celui de la première bombe H (1952). La flotte coulée dans le lagon par les essais de 1946 ou le gigantesque cratère Bravo constituent des témoignages directs des essais nucléaires. D'une puissance totale 7000 fois supérieure à celle d'Hiroshima, ils eurent des conséquences importantes sur la géologie de Bikini, son environnement naturel et la santé des populations irradiées. Par son histoire, l'atoll symbolise l'entrée dans l'âge nucléaire malgré une image paradoxale de paix et de paradis terrestre. Il s'agit du premier site des Iles Marshall à être inscrit sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial.

أتول بيكيني، موقع تجارب نووية

بعد انتهاء الحرب العالمية الثانية، وفي ظروف الحرب الباردة، قررت الولايات المتحدة استئناف تجاربها النووية في المحيط الهادي على أتول بيكيني في مجموعة جزر مارشال. وبعد أن تم إجلاء سكان هذه المنطقة، أُطلِقت 67 قذيفة نووية بين عامي 1946 و1958، من بينها أول قنبلة هيدروجينية (1952). ويمثل الأسطول الذي غرق في البحيرة الشاطئية جرّاء التجارب التي جرت في عام 1946والحفرة الضخمة التي نجمت عن تفجير قنبلة "برافو" شواهد مباشرة على إطلاق قذائف نووية. وأفضت هذه القذائف، التي بلغت قوتها أكثر من 7000 أمثال قوة قنبلة هيروشيما، إلى تأثيرات خطيرة على جيولوجية بيكيني، وعلى بيئتها الطبيعية وصحة سكانها الذين تعرضوا للإشعاع. ومن خلال تاريخها، ترمز مجموعة جزر بيكيني، بشكل متناقض، إلى الدخول في العصر النووي، رغم أنها تُعتبر ملاذاً للسلام والنعيم.

source: UNESCO/ERI

比基尼环礁

第二次世界大战后,历史进入了以冷战为标志的新一页。在此背景下,美国决定在位于太平洋马绍尔群岛的比基尼环礁恢复核试验。他们疏散了居民,并在1946 年至1958年间,在此进行了67次核武器爆炸试验,其中还包括第一枚氢弹(1952年)的爆炸。在泻湖中还沉睡着1946年试验时被击沉的舰队,环礁中还能看到巨大的“布拉沃”弹坑,它们都是核武器爆炸最直接的证据。这里爆炸的总当量达到了广岛原子弹爆炸当量的7000倍,对比基尼环礁的地质、自然环境和遭辐射人群的健康造成严重的影响。出于这一历史原因,比基尼环礁成为原子时代到来的象征,尽管环礁的和平美丽如天堂般的风景与这一象征大相径庭。这是马绍尔群岛首个被列入《世界遗产名录》的遗址。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Атолл Бикини

Вскоре после завершения Второй мировой войны, в обстановке "холодной войны" США решили возобновить ядерные испытания в Тихом океане на атолле Бикини, Маршалловы острова. Выселив местных жителей, США провели здесь в период 1946-1958 г.г. 67 ядерных взрывов, включая испытание первой водородной бомбы (1952). Суда, затопленные в лагуне в ходе испытаний 1946 года, и гигантский кратер Браво являются прямыми свидетельствами произведенных ядерных испытаний. Превышая в 7000 раз мощность бомбы, взорванной в Хиросиме, они оказали глубокое воздействие на геологию Бикини, его окружающую природную среду и здоровье подвергшихся радиационному излучению. Атолл стал выражением исторического парадокса – райский уголок Земли, превращенный в устрашающий символ вступления в ядерный век. Это – первый объект Маршалловых островов, включенный в Спиcок Мирового наследия.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Atolón de Bikini

Inmediatamente después del final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, en el contexto internacional de la Guerra Fría, los Estados Unidos decidieron reanudar las pruebas de armas nucleares en el atolón de Bikini, situado en el archipiélago de las Marshall. Una vez evacuados sus habitantes, se llevaron a cabo 67 explosiones nucleares en el periodo 1946-1958, entre las que destacó la de la primera bomba H (1952). Los buques hundidos en la laguna del atolón durante las pruebas efectuadas en 1946 y el gigantesco cráter originado por la mayor de todas ellas –la operación Castle Bravo– son testigos de las explosiones nucleares. Dotadas de una potencia siete mil veces mayor que la de la bomba lanzada sobre Hiroshima, esas explosiones tuvieron hondas repercusiones en la geología y el medio ambiente de Bikini, así como en la salud de las poblaciones sujetas a las radiaciones atómicas. Pese a su imagen de pacífico paraíso terrenal, el atolón de Bikini es paradójicamente el símbolo de la era de las armas atómicas.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ビキニ環礁核実験場
マーシャル諸島共和国初の世界遺産。第2次世界大戦後にはじまった冷戦に伴い、アメリカ合衆国は、太平洋沖マーシャル諸島ビキニ環礁での核実験再開を決定した。周辺住民を移住させ、1946年から1958年まで、初の水素爆弾実験(1952年)を含む67回の核実験を実施した。その威力を示す重要で明白な証拠が、1946年の実験で礁湖に沈んだ船と、水素爆弾「ブラボー」の実験でできた巨大なブラボー・クレーターである。一連の実験は広島型原爆の7000回分に匹敵し、環礁の地質や自然環境、人びとの健康などに重大な影響を及ぼした。これによりビキニ環礁は、「核の時代」の幕開けの象徴となった。

source: NFUAJ

Nucleair testcentrum Bikini atol

In het kielzog van de Tweede Wereldoorlog en in de aanloop naar de Koude Oorlog, besloten de Verenigde Staten van Amerika om kernproeven in de Stille Oceaan voort te zetten op het Bikini atol van de Marshall eilanden. Na de verplaatsing van de bewoners werden 67 nucleaire testen uitgevoerd van 1946 tot 1958, waaronder de explosie van de eerste waterstofbom in 1952. De gevolgen zijn duidelijk zichtbaar; gezonken schepen en de gigantische Bravo krater. De proeven hadden grote gevolgen voor de geologie, natuurlijke omgeving en de gezondheid van degenen die blootgesteld werden aan straling. Het atol staat symbool voor het aanbreken van het atoomtijdperk.

Source: unesco.nl

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

In the wake of World War II, in a move closely related to the beginnings of the Cold War, the United States of America decided to resume nuclear testing. They choose Bikini Atoll in the Marshall archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. After the displacement of the local inhabitants, 23 nuclear tests were carried out from 1946 to 1958,. The cumulative force of the tests in all of the Marshall Islands was equivalent to 7,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. Following the use of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Bikini tests confirmed that mankind was entering a “nuclear era”. The many military remains bear witness to the beginnings of the Cold War, the race to develop weapons of mass destruction and a geopolitical balance based on terror.

The violence exerted on the natural, geophysical and living elements by nuclear weapons illustrates the relationship which can develop between man and the environment. This is reflected in the ecosystems and the terrestrial, marine and underwater landscapes of Bikini Atoll.

The nuclear tests changed the history of Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands, through the displacement of inhabitants, and the human irradiation and contamination caused by radionuclides produced by the tests.

The Bikini Atoll tests, and tests carried out in general during the Cold War, gave rise to a series of images and symbols of the nuclear era. They also led to the development of widespread international movements advocating disarmament.

Criterion (iv): Bikini Atoll is an outstanding example of a nuclear test site. It has many military remains and characteristic terrestrial and underwater landscape elements. It is tangible testimony of the birth of the Cold War and it bears testimony to the race to develop increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. In the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, the Bikini Atoll site confirmed that mankind was entering a nuclear era. It also bears witness to the consequences of the nuclear tests on the civil populations of Bikini and the Marshall Islands, in terms of population displacement and public-health issues.

Criterion (vi): The ideas and beliefs associated with the Bikini nuclear test site, and more generally with the escalation of military power which characterized the Cold War, are of international significance. These events gave rise to a large number of international movements advocating nuclear disarmament; they gave rise to powerful symbols and to many images associated with the “nuclear era”, which characterized the second part of the 20th century.

Integrity and authenticity

The integrity of the property is acceptable, in view of the simultaneous presence of the remains of human artifacts and the process of natural recomposition which has followed the use of the nuclear bombs. In a very exceptional way, the degradation of the human artifacts by the natural elements forms part of the cultural process illustrated by the property. The integrity of the testimony of the property must be strengthened by the appropriate use of the considerable mass of documentary material associated with the site and its history.

The site has not undergone any substantial reconstruction; human presence there has remained very limited because of the radionuclides produced by the explosions. The authenticity of the material elements constituting the property is unquestionable.

Protection and management measures required

The main threats to the property are the effects of climate change and the presence of stocks of bombs and fuel in the underwater part of the property. The property is protected by the Historic and Cultural Preservation Act (1991). The legal protection and traditional protection in place are appropriate, but they must be reinforced to include the protection of the land-based military remains. In view of the changeable nature of the property, which is slowly returning to a natural state, conservation takes on a specific meaning in this case, and it may be considered therefore that no specific programme to preserve tangible remains is necessary. However, it is essential to ensure safety by dealing with any remaining military risks, to draw up a detailed inventory and to ensure regular monitoring of the constituent parts of the property. The management system is adequate, but it must be confirmed, and must be strengthened in several areas, particularly as regards the Bikini Divers Group, visitor reception and interpretation, the Peace Museum and the documentation centre.

Historical Description

The emergence of the atolls forming the Marshall archipelago is relatively recent. The arrival and settlement of the Micronesian populations in the islands goes back to the 4th and 3rd millennia BCE. Their lifestyle, which remained largely traditional over a long period, was based on fishing, and the gathering of fruit, coconut in particular.

The traditional Micronesian way of life was little affected by the visits in the 16th-18th centuries of the first European explorers such as Captain Marshall, after whom the islands were named. The same was true of the first colonial episode, as a German protectorate at the end of the 19th century. Coconut plantations were developed. After World War I the islands were made a Japanese mandate by the League of Nations.

In the inter-war period the Japanese considered the Marshall Islands to have strategic importance and turned them into a strong military site. During the Pacific War a substantial American naval force of 40,000 men captured the outpost at Kwajalein and the archipelago in February 1944, following a hard-fought battle which resulted in the deaths of the entire 8,000-strong Japanese garrison. The Americans then counted the Marshall Islands as territory conquered in battle against the enemy.

The use of atomic bombs by the US Army on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945) led to the unconditional surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. However, these military actions took place just after a number of major agreements between the Allies: the territorial divisions made at Yalta (February 1945), the end of the war in Europe (May 1945) and the Potsdam Conference, and finally the San Francisco Conference that created the United Nations (June 1945). The use of nuclear weapons had suddenly changed the balance of power between the Allies. Nuclear disarmament and/or nuclear non-proliferation under the control of the United Nations immediately became an issue and a major source of disagreement: the USSR pressed for disarmament as a priority whilst the USA, the only nation to possess atomic weapons, wanted non-proliferation at any cost. The issue was increasingly keenly debated at several international meetings during the winter of 1945- 46, particularly at the 1st General Assembly of the United Nations (January 1946). The principle of the United Nations having a controlling power over nuclear weapons was recognized, but the Americans and the Soviets were unable to reach an agreement on how to implement the decision.

Suspicion became the keynote of relations between the former allies over a long period. The Cold War had just begun between the West and the Soviet Union. The Soviets, excluded from the occupation of Japan (February 1946), shortly afterwards announced the formation of a Communist government in North Korea. In the spring, military tensions between the two blocs that were beginning to emerge developed in various regions of the world.

This was the context in which President Truman gave his approval to a plan proposed by the US Army to resume nuclear tests on an isolated Pacific island. The Bikini Atoll at the north-eastern tip of the Marshall archipelago, which shortly before had been the core of the Battle of the Pacific and was still occupied by American troops, was chosen. The inhabitants of Bikini Atoll, who numbered just over one thousand, were evacuated in March 1946 to the neighbouring atoll of Rongelap. Extensive preparations then took place on the main islands of the atoll to create the necessary military base, including command and firing control bunkers and logistical installations. Tens of thousands of military personnel were involved in the operations.

The first two tests at Bikini took place on 1 and 25 July 1946, under the codename Crossroads. They consisted of an air strike (Able) followed by a underwater strike (Baker), on the same position in the east of the lagoon. There were two objectives: on the one hand to stage an impressive display of American nuclear power, and on the other to carry out a military study of the direct impact of a nuclear explosion on a naval fleet.

The Russians' development of a nuclear weapon capability (1949), followed by the Korean War (1950), led to the intensification of the Cold War. The Americans then developed thermonuclear weapons, in the form of the massively powerful hydrogen bomb. In October 1952 the H-bomb was tested for the first time at Bikini, in a 10,400kt explosion (Ivy Mike), 800 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This was the first man-made nuclear fusion, and was carried out using cores of deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen (resulting in the name ‘hydrogen bomb‘). An operational version, the most powerful ever made by the Americans, was tested in March 1954 (Castle Bravo, 15,000kt), and this was followed by three other firings of similar power in 1954, all of them at Bikini.

Twenty-three tests were carried out at Bikini between July 1946 and August 1958, including the most powerful explosions ever conducted by the US Army. The neighbouring site of Enewetak Atoll, a little over 300km to the west, was also used from 1948 to 1958 (44 explosions). The Bikini inhabitants were relocated several times from one atoll to another. Those on Rongelap were authorized to return to their island in 1957, but the return proved a failure as the high degree of cesium-137 pollution made food grown on the islet hazardous.

Following the dropping of the two bombs on Japan and the spectacular Operation Crossroads tests at Bikini, a series of symbols and images began to impinge upon international public opinion, and this awareness was bolstered by the many nuclear tests carried out in the 1950s by the Americans, the Russians, and the British (from 1952). They acquired a considerable value and have played a major role in post-World War II history right up to the present day. The huge nuclear mushroom cloud emerging in a few seconds above the ocean is an image universally associated with such explosions. Initially created in Japan, the monster Godzilla emerging from the sea has become a popular icon of nuclear terror and its infinite power of devastation. Reflecting the international diffusion of American culture in the post-war period, the fashion of the two-piece bathing suit was launched in Paris under the name ‘bikini.' The theme of nuclear explosions in the Pacific was taken up by various artists, including the painter Salvador Dalí and the film director John Huston.

From a political viewpoint, the balance of terror born out of the Cold War was perfectly illustrated by the parallel development of nuclear weapon testing by the two blocs. Soviet efforts to catch up with and overtake the Americans culminated in the 50 megaton Big Ivan thermonuclear bomb (tested in 1961).

These events marked the course of a new nuclear age which was suddenly opening up for mankind. After beginning at Hiroshima in 1945, it was followed up less than one year later at Bikini, at a time when the warring nations of World War II were officially at peace. It was thus inevitable that a powerful anti-nuclear feeling should develop. The Japanese fishing boat irradiated in 1954 by the Castle Bravo test was to become a symbol; the irradiation of the populations of the Marshall Islands also raised concerns in international opinion. Several conferences then took place. Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein published a celebrated manifesto protesting against the Bikini tests. The years 1954-55 marked a turning point as the fears inspired by military nuclear capabilities, which until then had been shared only by limited circles of specialists, spread to international public opinion. A powerful popular movement calling for an end to tests and for nuclear disarmament was launched, a movement which had failed to take hold at the time of the creation of the United Nations Organization at the end of World War II.

Pressure of public opinion, together with the advances made in the digital simulation of nuclear tests, a new field of technological and military progress, led the US Government to take a unilateral decision to end nuclear tests (1958). This gave the USA the opportunity to revive its diplomatic efforts to ratify a non-proliferation treaty, at a time when new players were preparing to join the nuclear club, including France (whose first test was conducted in 1960).

From 1967 onwards the US authorities considered the possibility of the Bikini people returning to their atoll, and this led to work to clean up radioisotope contamination This was carried out from 1970 onwards, backed up by an agricultural production programme. Medical follow-up of inhabitants showed, however, high levels of human contamination as a result of consuming food produced on the atoll and water from its wells. The atoll had therefore to be evacuated once again in 1978.

Long after the ending of nuclear tests, the Marshall Islands remained subject to an exceptional legal status from the viewpoint of international law. They were still the site of a large-scale American conventional military presence in the Western Pacific. The legal situation was only gradually normalized during the 1980s, leading ultimately to the independence of the archipelago in 1990.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation