The Northern Marshall Islands Radiological Survey Academic Article uri icon

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  • Fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests, especially from those conducted at the Pacific Proving Grounds between 1946 and 1958, contaminated areas of the Northern Marshall Islands. A radiological survey at some Northern Marshall Islands was conducted from September through November 1978 to evaluate the extent of residual radioactive contamination. The atolls included in the Northern Marshall Islands Radiological Survey (NMIRS) were Likiep, Ailuk, Utirik, Wotho, Ujelang, Taka, Rongelap, Rongerik, Bikar, Ailinginae, and Mejit and Jemo Islands. The original test sites, Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, were also visited on the survey. An aerial survey was conducted to determine the external gamma exposure rate. Terrestrial (soil, food crops, animals, and native vegetation), cistern and well water samples, and marine (sediment, seawater, fish and clams) samples were collected to evaluate radionuclide concentrations in the atoll environment. Samples were processed and analyzed for 137Cs, 90Sr, 239+240Pu and 241Am. The dose from the ingestion pathway was calculated using the radionuclide concentration data and a diet model for local food, marine, and water consumption. The ingestion pathway contributes 70% to 90% of the estimated dose. Approximately 95% of the dose is from 137Cs. 90Sr is the second most significant radionuclide via ingestion. External gamma exposure from 137Cs accounts for about 10% to 30% of the dose. 239+240Pu and 241Am are the major contributors to dose via the inhalation pathway; however, inhalation accounts for only about 1% of the total estimated dose, based on surface soil levels and resuspension studies. All doses are computed for concentrations decay corrected to 1996. The maximum annual effective dose from manmade radionuclides at these atolls ranges from .02 mSv y(-1) to 2.1 mSv y(-1). The background dose in the Marshall Islands is estimated to be 2.4 mSv y(-1). The combined dose from both background and bomb related radionuclides ranges from slightly over 2.4 mSv y(-1) to 4.5 mSv y(-1). The 50-y integral dose ranges from 0.5 to 65 mSv.


  • Robison, WL
  • Noshkin, VE
  • Conrado, CL
  • Eagle, RJ
  • Brunk, JL
  • Jokela, TA
  • Mount, ME
  • Philips, WA
  • Stoker, AC
  • Audette-Stuart, Marilyne
  • Wong, KM

publication date

  • July 1997