Ladies and Gentlemen:
My name is Evelyn Ralpho. I am from Rongelap Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
On behalf of the People of Rongelap, our Local Government, our Traditional Leaders, I am honored to be here and thank the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the organizers and sponsors of this Conference, and especially my mom, Lijon Eknilang.
In between 1946 and 1958, the United States exploded 67 nuclear weapons on Bikini and Enewetak in the Marshall Islands. The total yield of these tests is equal to exploding one and a half Hiroshima size bombs every day for twelve years.
The March 1, 1954 hydrogen test, code named Bravo was the most powerful and harmful of the Marshall Island nuclear tests. Bravo was one thousand times as powerful as the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima.
Bravo caused radioactive fallout to cover the People and Lands of my home.
The day of Bravo, March 1, 1954 was my mother’s eighth birthday. Like all the residents of Rongelap, my mother was exposed to radiation. The fallout caused radiation burns to all the residents of Rongelap.
Since that time, my mother has had thyroid surgery. All the Rongelapese who were children at the time of the Bravo explosion have had thyroid surgery.
Last month, the National Academy of Science released an update on radiation risks. This update, known as BEIR VII, indicates that women are almost 40% more likely to die from radiation cancers, and 50% more likely to have radiation tumors then men. According to BEIR VII, the risks to children are even greater than to women.
The BEIR VII Report also states that there is no evidence of harm to human offspring from exposure of parents to radiation.
Having grown up among the Rongelapese, I can attest to the harm that radiation causes to the children of the exposed. As a daughter of Rongelap – the daughter of a survivor, I have personally witnessed the birth problems and birth defects experienced by the women of Rongelap.
My mother’s health problems are recounted in Dr. Arjun Makajani’s book, Radioactive Heaven and Earth. In that book, she says that she has had seven miscarriages, one of which was severely deformed and had only one eye.
As bad as the health problems are, recently released documents suggest that the United States scientists conducted human radiation experiments on the Rongelapese. These experiments, known as Project 4.1, were planned before the Bravo blast contaminated my Island. This leads me to believe that the contamination of the Rongelapese was done on purpose.
After the Bravo test, the Rongelapese were removed from their Island. In 1957, the United States returned my People to Rongelap to live in a highly contaminated environment. The United States scientists came to monitor our uptake of radiation every year.
Because we no longer wanted to live on a radioactive island, in 1985, the People of Rongelap abandoned our home. We currently reside in exile, scattered throughout the Marshall Islands and the United States.
Although the United States stopped testing nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, they continue to use it as a military testing ground.
Kwajalein Atoll, where I grew up on the island of Ebeye, is where the United States currently tests its Star Wars Defense Systems. Missiles fired from the United States are targeted for Kwajalein. Missiles from Kwajalein are launched to intercept the missiles sent from the United States.
The affects of the Star Wars testing programs on the Marshallese are like the nuclear tests that happened 50 years ago.
People are displaced from their home islands. Ebeye Island, where the labor force for the Star Wars military base lives, is about 40 acres, and home to about twelve thousand Marshallese.
On Ebeye, the living conditions are what most Americans would call a slum. Ebeye lacks good sanitation, water, power and medical facilities. The nearby military base has all modern conveniences that are not available to Marshallese citizens.
The Star Wars tests, like the nuclear tests, continue to contaminate the Marshall Islands with toxic chemicals and depleted uranium.
The legacy of Bravo and the Marshall Islands nuclear testing lives on in the lives of the children of those who survived exposure to radiation. The disruption that the nuclear testing program caused continues to haunt the lives of the offspring of the survivors of the nuclear testing program.
As a daughter of Rongelap – a daughter of a survivor, my determination to seek justice on behalf of all people who have been exposed to radiation is strong. My elders sought justice. Now it is time for the sons and daughters of the exposed to seek and fight for justice wherever it may be found.
That is our quest. That is our goal. That is my promise. With your help, and the help of people everywhere, with the blessing of God, we shall prevail.