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The atomic history of Bikini atoll

In 1946, the US government sent the 167 natives of Bikini Atoll into exile while it set about destroying their island with 23 nuclear tests. Local resident Jack Niedenthal tells what happened next

The atoll of Bikini, a necklace of 23 islands with sandy beaches and swaying palms that surround a tranquil, blue-green lagoon, presents a startling paradox for the nuclear age. How does a small coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific, which was once rocked violently by 23 atomic- and hydrogen-bomb blasts in the 1940s and 1950s, manage to appear so beautiful and abundant with nature’s bounty just a half-century later?

The remarkable legacy of these islands and their people began just after the second world war, in December 1945, when US President Harry S Truman issued a directive to army and navy officials that joint testing of nuclear weapons would be necessary “to determine the effect of atomic bombs on American warships”. Because of its location away from regular air and sea routes, Bikini was chosen to be the new nuclear proving ground for the US government.

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