20 Dec 2006

Marshall Island atolls keen to see court case proceed over nuclear compensation

3:45 pm on 20 December 2006

The trust liaison officer for the Marshall Islands atoll of Bikini, says filing legal action against the U.S. over their nuclear payout compensation was necessary because Congress had taken too long to help out.

Jack Niedenthal says a petition went to Congress in 2000 and it held hearings on whether the U.S. should provide more funds but the decision was shelved.

People from Bikini and Enewetak atolls are applying to the U.S. Federal Claims court to hear a case over not being paid the full compensation awarded to them by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal.

The tribunal determined that they should receive a total of more than 900 million U.S. dollars between them over damage suffered from the U.S. nuclear tests conducted during the 1940s and 50s.

They've received only token payments because the U.S. provided only 150 million dollars to the tribunal to allocate in the 1980s.

Mr Niedenthal says the judge will decide within the next month or so whether the case can proceed.

"All we have to do is survive that motion to dismiss and that's a huge if because it's going to be a real long shot but if we survive that, I know the U.S. is going to want to come to the table because it will mean billions of dollars to them. I mean, they have a lot to lose so they're going to want to come to the table and negotiate some kind of settlement."

Jack Niedenthal.