The Marshall Islands government has retained a former United States Attorney-General to pursue its 2 billion dollar claim for extra compensation for damage caused by US nuclear testing in the islands from 1946 to 1958.
The government hopes that a review of the claim by Richard Thornburgh, who was also twice Governor of Pennsylvania, will restore momentum to the nuclear compensation petition which has languished in the US Congress for nearly two years.
In 1986 Congress approved a 150 million US dollar trust fund which has paid out 270 million dollars to the four atolls most affected by the tests, Bikini and Enewetak, which were the sites of 67 nuclear tests and Rongelap and Utrik which were exposed to high-level fallout from the 1954 "Bravo" hydrogen bomb test at Bikini.
The Nuclear Claims Tribunal has awarded, but not been able to pay, more than 70 million dollars to 17 hundred islanders who experienced cancers and other related health problems. It has also awarded more than 1 billion dollars to Bikini and Enewetak for compensation and cleanup funding.
Claims for Rongelap and Enewetak are now pending even though all the Tribunal's funds have been exhausted.
The Tribunal's awards form the core of the petition to Congress.