18 Apr 2007

Marshall Islands tribunal awards one billion dollars compensation to Rongelap Islanders

7:50 am on 18 April 2007

A group of Marshall Islanders exposed to high-level nuclear test fallout have been awarded more than $1 billion in compensation by a special tribunal but are not likely to receive even a cent of the money.

The Marshall Islands-based Nuclear Claims Tribunal, which issued the ruling, has virtually no funding to pay the award.

The Tribunal, which since 1991 has annually paid personal injury claims of islanders, halted the payments in 2006 after running out of money.

A Tribunal official says the compensation trust fund provided by the U.S. has dropped from its original 1986 amount of $150 million to just $1 million, and is expected to be exhausted by administrative costs to operate the Tribunal next year.

The billion dollar ruling comes more than 15 years after the claim was first filed by leaders from Rongelap, a low-lying atoll that was blanketed by nuclear fallout from the 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini.

Rongelap Mayor, James Matayoshi, says the islanders plan to file suit against the United States in the US Court of Claims to seek enforcement of the Tribunal¹s award.