Islanders have most to lose in North Korean nuclear crisis says Samoan PM

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This U.S. Navy handout image shows Baker, the second of the two atomic bomb tests, in which a 63-kiloton warhead was exploded 90 feet under water as part of Operation Crossroads, conducted at Bikini Atoll in July 1946 to measure nuclear weapon effects on warships. Photo by REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

Samoan Prime Minister Tu’ilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has warned that Pacific nations have the most to lose in the unfolding crisis between North Korea and the United States.

North Korea has now threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific as part of its escalating dispute with the United states.

Radio New Zealand quoted Malielegaoi today as saying Pacific nations were no longer protected by their isolation.

He said if the hydrogen bomb was detonated, the US and North Korea would have started a war which might be the end of the world.

But an American scientist said on the weekend that  if North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb underwater, the main effects would be psychological.

“A lot of this is going to be more psychological than the radiological hazard,” Marine geochemist Ken Buesseler told PBS Newshour.

“Since you can’t smell or feel or taste the radioactivity, if people think even small amounts are in their food, they panic. Sometimes panic is the proper response, and sometimes it’s not needed if the levels are low enough.”

Nicholas S. Fisher, a marine biogeochemist at Stony Brook University told the highly regarded news programme that residual radioactivity from an underwater blast would be less than from similar tests in the 1960s.

Radioactivity from a North Korean test would be dispersed by ocean currents.

Fisher said every party of the Pacific contained residual radioactivity from those tests, but the level of radioactivity was too low to cause problems.

He said nuclear weapons testing amounted to one percent of the radioactivity in the ocean.

However, a high altitude test, such as detonating a bomb carried on a missile, could cause far more serious problems.

Laura Grego, a physicist and nuclear weapons expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists said it could knockout satellites either through the initial blast or through residual radiation in the ensuing weeks.

She said between five and 20 percent of the 800 satellites in low orbit would “instantly fry.”

Not everybody is sanguine about the results of a hydrogen bomb tests.

The American surface hydrogen bomb tests in the Marshall Islands in 1946 led to widespread radioactive fallout, cancer and contamination of previously inhabited islands.

Bikini Islanders were evacuated before the tests and not allowed to return until the 1970s. They were evacuated again in 1978 after ingesting high levels of radiation from eating food grown on the former nuclear test site.

The Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $US2 billion to settle injury and land damage claims arising from the tests.

The main points

  • Samoan Prime Minister Tu’ilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has warned that Pacific nations have the most to lose in the unfolding crisis between North Korea and the United States.
  • North Korea, which has now threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific as part of its escalating dispute with the United states.
  • But an American scientist said on the weekend that if North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb underwater, the main effects would be psychological.
  • “A lot of this is going to be more psychological than the radiological hazard,” Marine geochemist Ken Buesseler told PBS Newshour.

For more information  

What a North Korea hydrogen bomb would do to the Pacific Ocean and space stations

Pacific Forum leader calls for sense over North Korea

Bikini Atoll nuclear test: 60 years later and islands still unliveable

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