Competition Site Proposal
Johnston Atoll is an unincorporated territory owned by the United States located 860 miles west of Hawaii. The island is part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument founded in 2009 and is grouped with the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The decommissioned base consists of four islands located on a coral reef platform. Two natural islands have been expanded through coral dredging. Johnston Island is the largest covering approximately 625 acres, and Sand Island covers 22 acres. Two manmade islands were added nearby which were formed from coral dredging: North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina).
Johnston Atoll’s military history begins in 1934 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transfered control of the island to the United States Navy to create an air station with airstrip and fueling facilities. The site had previously been designated as a federal bird refuge in 1926 and decades earlier was occupied by the U.S. and the Kingdom of Hawaii to mine guano deposits. The natural island drastically changed shape as the Navy’s reef blasting, dredging, land filling, grading, and construction took place to create the air station in 1936. Further dredging projects by the Air Force in 1964 increased the island’s size up to 625 acres from its original 46.
During the 1950s and 60s Johnston Atoll was used for above ground, high-altitude, and underwater nuclear weapons testing. It was also the site of several spy satellite launchings. In the mid-1960s a series of open-air biological weapons tests were completed downwind of Johnston Atoll. Since 1971 the base was used for chemical weapons storage, and in 1993 a special facility was constructed and the base became the primary U.S. location for the safe destruction of chemical weapons. By 2003 procedures had been started to close the base. Structures and facilities were demolished and the runway was marked closed. Although still under control by the U.S. Air Force, the site was abandoned in 2005. In 2009 Johnston Atoll became part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and became a federal bird and wildlife refuge administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior.
The Environmental Challenge
Johnston Atoll has a toxic history which makes it a challenging site. From several decades of nuclear missile testing to thirty years of stockpiling chemical weapons, the island has known nuclear contamination. In 1962 two failed thermonuclear warhead launches polluted the atoll with scattered plutonium debris; in addition, over 400,000 rockets, projectiles, bombs, mortars and mines were stockpiled and destroyed at the atoll.
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