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From Issue 47, Summer 2004

Britain cleans up nuclear test island

BRITAIN has agreed to clear, up Christmas Island
of the debris left behind by the nuclear tests conducted by the UK and US governments more than 40 years
ago. Work is expected to begin this year.

The agreement, eight years in the making, has delighted the Kiribati government. At a formal signing ceremony
in
Bairiki it was described as a “major environmental success” for both countries.

The project will involve the removal by Britain of
rusting trucks, pipes, cranes, boilers and bulldozers. Some items of equipment still bear the word ‘‘Grapple’’ stenciled on them from the operational code name used for the tests conducted in the 1950s and 60s.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence will appoint a
contractor to carry out the work under the supervision of a project manager who will design, supervise and manage the contract.

A five-man team of environmental consultants and an engineer from the Ministry of Defence visited the island late last year. Islanders will stand to gain immediately as the agreement specifies that they should be recruited to help with the work.

  A longer-term beneficiary will be tourism.

The only visitor attraction at the moment is deepwater sports fishing. The waters around the island are renowned for the varied species of fish available, and attract serious fishermen from around the world.

An official of Transpacific Holidays, which is based at Gatwick, said: “Most people who want to go to Christmas Island are people who served there during the tests.

“We are happy to arrange holidays there, but we point out to holidaymakers that the amenities are basic.

“However, we certainly hope that tourism will benefit. Holidaymakers are always looking for somewhere new or different. Christmas Island could easily become
the in-
venue of a Robinson Crusoe type holiday”.

Christmas Island is remote by any standard. It lies
in the country’s eastern island group about 2,000 miles east of the capital
island of Tarawa. However,
tourists can reach it
in a 3 ½  hour flight from Honolulu
or, if they fancy a more leisurely voyage, by supply ship from
Tarawa.

Transpacific Holidays book visitors into the Captain Cook Hotel, which was developed out of the old RAF officers’ quarters.

It says that the hotel can best be described as adequate -“but everything works and the water is hot!”

  

 

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     Karibiti Taoaba, Permanent Secretary, Kiribati Ministry of the environment, and Vernon Scarborough, British High Commissioner, sign the clean-up memorandum