Transuranics in bone of deceased former residents of Rongelap Atoll, Marshall islands

B. Franke, R. Schupfner, H. Schüttelkopf, D.H.R. Spennemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Rongelap Atoll received intensive fallout from the 1 March 1954 Bravo thermonuclear test 105 miles upwind at Bikini. Fearful of their continued exposure to radiation, the residents of Rongelap Atoll went into voluntary exile in 1985. Transuranic soil concentrations on Rongelap Island are about 2-3 orders of magnitude greater than the average for the Northern hemisphere; the three dominating transuranics are 239,240Pu and 241Am. Only conflicting information has been available about the extent of transuranic uptake by the Rongelap community. As part of the Rongelap Resettlement Project, the community endorsed the exhumation of bones of deceased former atoll residents to provide an independent estimate of plutonium intake. This approach has the advantage of reducing the uncertainties associated with pathway modeling and the interpretation of urine data. Six graves (4 adults, 2 chidlren) were selected for exhumation. Femora and tibiae were selected as well as humeri from the children's graves. The rest of the remains was left undisturbed. The results of the analysis of 239,240Pu and 241Am are presented. Assuming that the data can be considered as representative for the Rongelap population as a whole, the contamination with transuranics on Rongelap Atoll appears to result in radiation exposures in the order of 1% of the compliance limit of 100 mrem (1 mSv) effective dose equivalent per year.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1258
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Radiation and Isotopes
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1995


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