In the Shadow of the Manhattan Project


1. The indigenous of the Rongelap in the Marshall Islands, where the United States conducted blasts, today suffer generational immune system vulnerabilities; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility. Testing conducted by France blanketed French Polynesia and Tahiti. The largest single stateside radioactive toxin release in U.S. history occurred in 1979 in Church Rock, New Mexico, a Navajo town, when a waste disposal pond breached its dam, releasing tons of radioactive water.

2. Many have been disappointed by the complicated route toward compensation. Downwinders, in particular, have felt shortchanged by a patriotic reluctance to sanction their claims. The Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990 prioritized veterans and worker-related claims. It restricted downwinder eligibility claims to the directly impacted, although many downwind areas appear to suffer inherited susceptibility to cancer. Spouses, children, and grandchildren can sue on behalf of deceased relatives. It furthermore restricted downwinder claims to very specific locales. Perhaps the Act represented a grudging admission by Congress that the 1950s Cold War tests were morally tainted, while safeguarding the dignity of the original enterprise. The surviving Trinity downwinders, and descendants, as well as all downwinders in Idaho have so far been denied eligibility.

3. The UN ratified a comprehensive nuclear testing ban in the 1990s and President Clinton expressed his support in 1996. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress has never ratified the ban. Several attempts to have the U.S. join the UN ban have been stymied in Congress.

4. The production of replacement nuclear warheads for existent weapons has often been questioned, yet appears to still be permissible under nuclear arsenal reduction treaties, such as the START treaties.