International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

January 29, 2021
by mbolton
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Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons: New Peer-Reviewed Research

The peer-reviewed academic journal Global Policy will publish a Special Section on “Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons” in its February issue, edited by Dr. Matthew Breay Bolton of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute and Elizabeth Minor of Article 36. Pace University graduate student Sydney Tisch also co-authored one of the articles, on the impact of UK and US nuclear testing in Kiribati. In recognition of the January 2021 entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the Global Policy team are releasing the articles early online and making them open access over the next couple weeks.

The Special Section aims to be a resource for researchers, policymakers, advocates and journalists, compiling in once place key information on the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear detonations and humanitarian, environmental and development policy efforts to address them. The Special Section includes an overview of the locations all nuclear weapons detonations and a review of their humanitarian and environmental consequences; a detailed case study of US and UK nuclear testing in Kiribati; an interview with survivors in Japan and Kazakhstan; a commentary on existing victim assistance and environment remediation; and a commentary on how best to implement the TPNW victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations. The overall argument running through the articles is that policy interventions to date have not adequately addressed the needs and rights of hibakusha, atomic veterans and test survivors, nor ongoing environmental concerns. The authors argue that the TPNW victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations offer an important new opportunity for addressing the consequences of nuclear detonations, by focusing policy attention and constituting a new field of development assistance.

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May 7, 2018
by mbolton
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Kiribati: Addressing the Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Harm of Nuclear Weapons Tests at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands

Teeua Tetua, President of the Association of Cancer Patients Affected by the British and American Bomb Tests, Kiritimati, January 2018. Photo: Matthew Bolton.

Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA tested 33 nuclear devices at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. British, Fijian, New Zealand and American veterans of the testing program and I-Kiribati civilians who lived on Kiritimati claim their health (as well as their descendants’) was adversely affected by exposure to ionizing radiation. Their concerns are supported by independent medical research. However, analysis of the ongoing humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing at Kiritimati and Malden Islands has been inadequate. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Kiribati has signed but not yet ratified, obligates assistance to victims and remediation of contaminated environments, including those affected by the Christmas and Malden Islands nuclear tests. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for the role of its advocacy in achieving the treaty.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute documents the humanitarian, human rights and environmental harm caused by these nuclear weapons tests, finding that:

  • 43,000 military and civilian personnel from the US, UK, New Zealand and Fiji participated in the UK and US nuclear weapons tests in and around Kiribati; family members and dignitaries also visited
  • The 500 I-Kiribati civilians living on Kiritimati during the tests received little protection
  • There are at least 48 first generation survivors in Kiribati, plus 800 children and grandchildren of survivors
  • Many military and civilian survivors have health problems consistent with exposure to radiation; descendants also report multi-generational health problems
  • The tests killed thousands of birds and fish. The environmental impact of the nuclear tests has not been adequately analyzed

The report recommends that Kiribati and the international community should:

  1. Sign and RATIFY the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  2. Assess and RESPOND to the humanitarian needs of survivors, especially at Kiritimati
  3. Survey and REMEDIATE contaminated environments at Kiritimati and Malden Islands
  4. RESPECT, protect and fulfill the human rights of nuclear test survivors
  5. RETELL the stories of the humanitarian and environmental impact of the tests

To read the full report, click here.

For a related report on the impact of the Kiritimati and Malden Island tests on Fijian veterans, click here.

For a general overview of the global humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing, click here.

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