Amchitka is the largest and southernmost island of the Rat Islands group in the Aleutian Chain, located about 1,340 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Amchitka boasts roughly 74,240 acres, with a hilly landscape containing elevations that range from sea level to over 1,100 feet above sea level.
The U.S. military chose Amchitka Island to begin launching an assault on Japanese-owned Kiska Island, which is roughly 60 miles west of Amchitka, in 1943. Occupancy of Amchitka peaked at 15,000 troops, but military operations on the island ceased in 1945. The U.S. military abandoned the site in 1950, however the U.S. government’s Atomic Energy Commission chose the site for testing of underground nuclear detonations. The government performed three tests at the Amchitka site, the first being performed in October 1965.
The first test, named Long Shot, was a nuclear detection research experiment in which the bomb was detonated at 2,300 feet below ground level. The second test, called Milrow, was detonated in October 1969 at a depth of 4,000 feet. The third test, called Cannikin, was performed in November of 1971 at a depth of 5,875 below ground surface. Environmental groups and citizens alike protested the experiments, fearing that the tests – namely the Cannikin test – would trigger earthquakes and tsunamis in nearby areas.
While fears of tsunamis and earthquakes went unrealized, fears of disease-producing contaminants did not. Because the concentrations of tritium detections in surface water were considered safe at 16,000 picocuries per liter (the U.S. EPA standard of safety is 20,000 picocuries per liter), and the monitoring of groundwater and surface water from 1965 to 2001 showed only decreasing levels of tritium, monitoring of the site ceased in 2001. However, employees working at Amchitka during the Atomic Energy Commission’s testing years were exposed to tritium and other possible contaminants.
Therefore, employees who worked at Amchitka Island during the years of the testing of underground nuclear detonations are deemed eligible for EEOICPA care benefits under Part B of the EEOICPA (Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act).