Atomic Deserts A Survey of the World's Radioactive No-Go Zones

The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.

The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.

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Part 16: Mushroom Clouds in the South Pacific


AFP
In the 1960s, France moved all of its nuclear testing to the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls and ultimately conducted 41 atmospheric tests and 147 underground tests at the site. Testing at the site was the periodic target of official protest, most notably by the New Zealand government, which sent ships to the atoll in the 1970s to protest for a nuclear free pacific. The site was abandoned as a nuclear test area in 1996, but is still guarded by French forces. There is concern that underwater cracks discovered in the atoll may ultimately allow under ground radiation to escape.

France wasn't the only country to test nuclear devices in the South Pacific. The US detonated 23 nuclear bombs at Bikini Atoll, starting in 1946. One of the blasts contaminated 23 crew members of a Japanese fishing boat, an event which angered Japan and provided the inspiration for the 1954 film "Godzilla." Some 200 inhabitants of the islands were relocated, but several were returned in the 1960s once the US declared the islands safe for habitation. They were, however, removed once again when failed pregnancies and birth deffects began to mount. Fish caught in the atoll's lagoon are still not safe to eat.

The US also conducted nuclear tests at Enewetak Atoll. The photo above shows a Hydrogen bomb blast on Enewetak Atoll in 1952.

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