All CISAC News Commentary May 25, 2022

A current security imperative: the US role in the Marshall Islands

Rose Gottemoeller, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, remembers the painful history of Castle Bravo—the largest and most catastrophic US nuclear weapons test conducted in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War—and urges the United States to finish the compact extension with the three island nations to contain China’s growing influence in the Pacific.
Nuclear weapon test Bravo (yield 15 Mt) on Bikini Atoll
'Castle Bravo' on March 1, 1954 on Bikini Atoll. Photo credit: United States Department of Energy

Eight years ago, I traveled as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security to the Marshall Islands, a remote place in the central Pacific. I was there to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Castle Bravo, the largest and most catastrophic of the 67 nuclear weapons tests that the United States conducted in the Marshalls during the Cold War. Because of a design error that led to a larger-than-expected blast, radioactive fallout from the test—at Bikini Atoll, which had been evacuated—spread over more than 4,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean and contaminated nearby populated atolls.

Read the rest at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists