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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (September 29, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The Marshall Islands is seeking more than $2.7 billion in additional nuclear test compensation from the U.S. Congress.

But the RMI petition presented to the U.S. Congress earlier this month makes it clear that the $2.7 billion request is for the immediate and currently known "changed circumstances."

The petition said the RMI government will be presenting additional information to the U.S. on land claims of Rongelap and Bikini (which are now before the Nuclear Claims Tribunal), environmental rehabilitation programs, expanding monitoring programs, establishing occupational safety programs for people working in nuclear cleanup areas, and community education.

The petition specifically asks the Congress to:

· appropriate $26.9 million so that the Nuclear Claims Tribunal can complete full payment of personal injury awards made as of August 12, 2000.

· appropriate $386 million to satisfy the Nuclear Claims Tribunal award to Enewetak for cleanup, loss of use and hardship.

· appropriate $50 million in initial capital costs to build and supply the facilities necessary to provide adequate medical care to radiation exposed populations in the RMI.

· appropriate $45 million each year for 50 years for a Section177 health care program to provide for people who were exposed to one or more tests, and the awardees of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal.

· extend the U.S. Department of Energy medical monitoring program for exposed populations to any groups that can demonstrate high levels of radiation exposure to the U.S. Congress.

"As more knowledge and information emerges about the damages and inquiries wrought by the testing programs, the manifest inadequacy of Section 177 (compensation provisions) has become clear," the petition to the Congress said.

The RMI’s petition seeking additional compensation fits with the U.S. commitment to provide just compensation, the petition said. The petition notes that RMI claims could be resumed in U.S. courts, but adds that this petition is part of the political process intended by the U.S. Congress to resolve the compensation issue fairly.

The petition points out, for instance, that more than 700 (42 percent) of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal awardees have died without receiving their full award.

It also said that the medical surveillance and health care programs have been severely inadequate to meet the needs of affected islands.

The 177 Health Care Program "was asked to deliver appropriate health care services within an RMI health infrastructure that was not prepared or equipped to deliver the necessary level of health care," the petition said.

The $2 million per year provided for the 177 Health Care Program means the program is under funded, providing only $14 per person per month to island patients as compared to an average U.S. expenditure of $230 per person per month for similar services, the petition said.

The petition said that the inadequacies in U.S. compensation pointed out in this petition could not have been identified when the Compact was negotiated in the early 1980s.

This is because the full extent of the damages caused by the 67 American nuclear tests have never been assessed and "because scientific and medical developments since the settlement was consummated would have rendered any prior assessment not just manifestly inadequate, but null and void," it said.

"What might have been acknowledged by the government of the United States in 1983 as ‘damages resulting from the nuclear testing program’ is only a small portion of what such injuries and damages are now known to be."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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