The U.S. Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Insular and International Affairs announced Thursday that his department has signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide $1,689,000 to conduct a radiochemical analysis in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The focus is on the Runit Dome waste-containment structure and surrounding groundwater on Runit Island on Enewetak Atoll.

As noted in a press release, from 1947 to 1958 the United States conducted 43 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests at Enewetak Atoll. (Another 24 tests were conducted in other parts of the Marshalls.)

Contaminated surface soil and radioactive debris were removed from Enewetak and surrounding islands, mixed with cement, and buried inside the dome (also known as Cactus Crater) above and below sea level.

The Runit Dome on Enewetak Atoll was built to cover a disposal crater holding 84,000 cubic meters of radioactive soil scraped from the various contaminated Enewetak Atoll islands.

U.S. Defense Special Weapons Agency

Recent news reports have warned that the structure may not be entirely secure, however.

Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech said the two agencies were partnering due to concerns from the Enewetak community.

In 2012 the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 112-149 to provide continued monitoring of the structure.

The monitoring will take 18 months, followed by the issuing of a report that will provide “a determination as to any significant risks to the people of Enewetak.”

The Office of Insular Affairs administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the RMI, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

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