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Narrative of i-Kiribati Civilian Residents in Kiritimati: Nuclear Legacies and Pollution
Nuclear militarization of the Pacific caused environmental and health problems which affected generations of people living there. Compared to the nuclear tests in Marshall Islands and French Polynesia, British and American nuclear tests conducted on Kiritimati and Malden Island in Kiribati are not widely known to the public. While the stories of military personnel who served in Kiritimati were collected, the stories of i-Kiribati civilian residents on Kiritimati have been neglected. Kiritimati islanders have been living in an environment where a tremendous amount of post-testing waste was left. Most of them utilised the potentially contaminated waste for more than 40 years until decontamination was substantially done. Kiritimati is a rare case that the land is habitable unlike other atolls in the Pacific where USA and France tested their thermonuclear weapons. However, i-Kiribati people who lived on the island during the nuclear tests and their descendants suffer health problems even today. While they often use terms such as cancers and leukemia to materialise their nuclear legacies—the effects of their radiation exposure and environmental pollution that might have been caused by the nuclear testing and the post-testing waste, the realities of their experience and suffering are negated because of the lack of medical infrastructure of the country and also of the indeterminacy of cause-and-effect relationship between illnesses and low-level radiation exposure. Through interviews conducted on Kiritimati, this paper analyses the narrative of i-Kiribati civilian residents on Kritimati to shed lights on their experiences to figure out sustainable future for the planet.