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Nuclear test site seeks world heritage status

The atoll was the site of the first US post-World War II atomic blasts in 1946 and ultimately saw 23 bomb tests up to 1958.
by Staff Writers
Majuro (AFP) Feb 19, 2009
Bikini Atoll, the site of the United States' largest hydrogen bomb test and the place that lends its name to the skimpy two-piece swimsuit, is seeking recognition as a world heritage site.

"Nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll shaped the history of the people of Bikini, the history of the Marshall Islands and the history of the entire world," according to the Bikini proposal released here Friday.

The 86-page document, to be presented to UNESCO's World Heritage program, has been drawn up by Bikini liaison official Jack Niedenthal and Australian-based consultant Nicole Baker.

A world heritage nomination involves a multi-level review and a decision is unlikely to be made before June next year, Baker said.

She described the Bikini nomination, the first for a north Pacific site, as "ground-breaking", saying the World Heritage program is Europe-centered and based largely on recognition of monuments dating back many centuries.

"There are only a few 20th century sites, few are in the Pacific and few have confronting values," she said, referring to Bikini's status as a nuclear test ground zero as "nuclear colonialism".

To be successful, a world heritage nomination must demonstrate that the site has values that transcend national boundaries.

Because of its role in the nuclear arms race during the Cold War, Bikini clearly passes that test, she said.

The atoll was the site of the first US post-World War II atomic blasts in 1946 and ultimately saw 23 bomb tests up to 1958.

"Bikini is the only world famous, world class place out here," Niedenthal said. "It's got nuclear test buildings, craters and a bathing suit."

French designer Louis Reard reportedly named his swimsuit creation "bikini", released at the time of the nuclear tests in 1946, because he believed it would also explode upon the world.

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