They call the impressive structure located in the Marshall Islands "The Tomb" because it contains 85,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste inside. The situation is serious, it could be in danger of breaking.
When we reflect on nuclear energy and remember the great catastrophes, we think that the place with the most radiation in the world is Chernobyl or Fukushima. But it's not like that. The place that concentrates the most radiation is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and, now, due to the action of climate change, this place is at risk of suffering a catastrophe.
Back in the sixties of the last century, the US found a specific place in Micronesia to carry out a series of nuclear tests. The Marshall Islands became the target to launch 67 nuclear warheads for the sole purpose of testing the potential for such bombs. When the tests were finished, the US government began to carry out biological tests in the area.
At the end of the tests, in 1979, ‘La Tumba’ was built, a capsule made of 358 45-centimeter-thick concrete panels that was erected on the island of Runit. This capsule houses the remains of the largest nuclear test field in the United States.
Just a few months ago, a study published in PNAS claimed that the islands of Runit, Enjebi, Bikini and Naen today have plutonium levels 239 and 240 between 10 and 1,000 times higher than those found in Fukushima, and some 10 times higher than Chernobyl. In other words, radiation far superior to areas where life cannot be harbored for the next 24,000 years. But that's not the worst: climate change multiplies the danger.
"The Tomb" is cracking. Forty years after its construction, it is beginning to suffer from leaks in its structure, which can pose a real danger to life. But why is it breaking? Experts have a clear answer: climate change has caused temperatures to rise and, with it, the sea level. The heat and rising water are eroding its surface.
According to research, the Marshall Islands have seen sea levels rise above the average for the rest of the planet. Studies show that, since 1993, it has increased by one centimeter per year, which is more than double that in the rest of the world. If the sea level continues to rise at the rate it has been doing in the last 25 years, it is estimated that by the year 2100 this archipelago will be completely submerged under the sea, with the danger that it entails.
Some scientists, like the researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Terry Hamilton, try to take iron out of the matter, assuring that the situation is not as worrying or as extreme as it may seem. But the truth is that if ‘The Tomb’ of the Marshall Islands is buried under water, the consequences for life can be disastrous: a dumping of 85,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste into the Pacific would not be, far from it, a joke.