There's 22 million gallons of nuclear waste under a concrete dome on a Pacific Island, and it's sinking

The Los Angeles Times has a harrowing new story about Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Japanese forces invaded the small Pacific nation and its residents during World War I, and the United States did the same during World War II under that classic guise of "liberation." But the US was hardly acting altruistically, at the time nor since then. The islands' location made it a prime strategic military base in the Pacific. It was also isolated enough to make it a convenient nuclear testing site—if you disregarded the 72,000 people who lived there, of course.

Between 1946 and 1962, US military experiments produced 108 megatons of nuclear yield in the Marshall Islands— about 80% of the country's total radioactive waste output from nuclear testing. That's the equivalent 1.6 atomic bombs dropped every day for 12 years. And after the US decided to gradually cede control of the land back to the Marshallese people, we just kind of … left it all behind.  We were kind enough to pour a bunch of concrete on top of the 22 million gallons of nuclear waste left behind on one specific island, creating the Runit Dome.

But that dome is still there. And the concrete is starting to crack. And sea levels are rising rapidly, particularly in the Pacific, further accelerating that erosion process. Now the Dome—affectionately and appropriately called "The Tomb" by the locals—is threatening to leach all of that nuclear waste into the land and the ocean.

I realize that an island-sized nuclear waste dump called "The Tomb" in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sounds like some straight-up Godzilla sci-fi shit. Read the rest

Reflecting on Godzilla and the Bomb

Behold, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

The original Japanese version of the film, Gojira (which few Americans saw until a decade and a half ago when it first appeared on DVD), was produced in 1954, just nine years after we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. When the heavily Americanized version of the film came out in 1956 it had been retitled, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

About the Japanese version, Gojira, film scholar Tim Lucas writes [the film is] “dark, melancholy, crushing, and relentless” in his late lamented magazine Video Watchdog (Special Issue 2, 1995/96).

On Wikipedia, Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka is quoted as saying, “The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.” Thus Gojira is a dramatic embodiment of the earth’s rebellion against man’s stupidity: a blow-torched stomping rumination on the horrors of the atomic age,

The idea of a big rubbery monster emerging from the ocean sounds silly, however Gojira is anything but. The destruction it causes, though the special effects are primitive by today’s standards, is genuinely horrific. You might be one of those folks who chuckle at the marvelously-crafted miniature cities being destroyed by what is obviously a guy in a monster suit, but if you think about what it really means, your laughter should catch in your throat. The film has a prominent anti-nuclear message and is one of the earlier films to shove it right in your face. Read the rest