MEI Supports Ban on Nuclear Weapons Testing; Calls for Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton to Stand by Arkansas-Marshallese Residents

MEI supports the non-binding, United Nations resolution that calls for all nations to stop nuclear weapons testing and adhere to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). As an advocate of the Marshallese people in Arkansas and across the globe who continue to suffer from the cultural, biological, and environmental damages brought about by U.S. nuclear weapons testing, MEI supports all measures that would reinforce the United States’ commitment to stop nuclear weapons testing.

A ban on explosive nuclear weapons testing helps prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and strengthens U.S. national security. The National Academy of Sciences in 2012 confirmed that the United States derives no benefit from explosive nuclear testing. Only North Korea, which just tested its second nuclear weapon this year, benefits from testing. The United States was the first country to sign the CTBT in 1996. Since then 183 other countries have signed on and the test ban has the full support of all directors of U.S. national nuclear laboratories.

However, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton pushes to defund the CTBT, which hosts neutral international monitoring stations that detect nuclear tests, and argues that U.S. nuclear weapons specialists may one day need to take “a weapon off of the shelf and test it.”

The United States began nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands 70 years ago at Bikini Atoll. From 1946-1958 the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for twelve years. The impact of U.S. nuclear testing has caused irrevocable damage to Marshallese lands and bodies. Undiagnosed illnesses and cancers are prevelant among the Marshallese population. Today, nearly 12,000 Marshallese reside in Arkansas, many of whom are from atolls that were subjected to fallout from the 15 megaton Bravo detonation and who cannot safely live on their ancestral lands. Many of their descendants are U.S. citizens and serve in the U.S. military.

Faith Laukon Jibas, a U.S. citizen and a Springdale, Arkansas resident along with her parents, explains that her mother, Neisen Laukon, “suffers daily from illness that doctors cannot diagnose.” Laukon lived on Rongelap Atoll and was exposed to low levels of radiation as a child. She witnessed Rongelapese babies born with birth defects and family members fall ill and subjected to numerous surgeries due to abnormalities and cancer caused by nuclear contamination.

The United States ended nuclear weapons testing in 1992. In addition to the Marshallese, Native Americans, U.S. military personnel (known as Atomic Veterans), and other U.S. citizens who were exposed to radiation from tests in the United States continue to suffer from the effects of exposure. MEI respectfully asks that Sen. Cotton consult with his constituents to better understand the impact of nuclear testing.

MEI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Northwest Arkansas and established in 2013 to blend scholarly research with practical outreach efforts to create awareness of Marshallese history and culture on a national stage, while making a real difference in the lives of individual Marshallese.