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Texas-based brewery slammed for naming beer after U.S. nuclear testing on Marshall Islands

2019-08-20

In this May 21, 1956 photo, the fireball of a hydrogen bomb lights the Pacific sky a few seconds after the bomb was released over Bikini Atoll. (AP)

A craft beer company is taking heat for its insensitive product-naming.

Texas-based Manhattan Project Beer Company is under scrutiny by Marshall Island residents for naming its new beer “Bikini Atoll,” The Pacific Daily News reported Thursday.

Bikini Atoll is a coral reef in the Marshall Islands consisting of 23 islands. From 1946 until 1958, it was used by the United States as a nuclear testing site.

As the U.S. took part in a nuclear arms race against the Soviet Union at the onset of the cold war, it relocated 167 Bikinians to other parts of the island to start its nuclear testing program.

According to the paper, the testing had blasts that were 1,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

The Bikinians returned to their homes in 1969, but had to be evacuated again in 1978 because of radioactive elements that were found in their bodies.

The atoll remains uninhabitable to this day.

Jack Niedenthal, Republic of the Marshall Islands Secretary of Health and Human Services, called the situation “unacceptable to us.”

In a letter addressed to Misty Sanford, Manhattan Project Beer Company’s co-founder and co-owner, he elaborated:

“The bottom line is your product makes fun of a horrific situation here in the Marshall Islands — a situation, that I promise you is still ongoing — to make money for your company. This is unacceptable to us,” he wrote, according to USA Today.

Marshall Islanders have one of the highest cancer rates in the world, according to Niedenthal. Every family can easily be linked to a personal story of cancer related to the nuclear testing period.

Niedenthal’s wife, children, and grandchildren, who are all Bikini islanders will now “have to read about how their beloved homeland, poisoned forever by the United States government, has a beer named after it,” he wrote.

Approximately 5,000 islanders were impacted with the testing. Portions of Bikini and Enewetak (an atoll located around 190 miles west of Bikini) were “literally vaporized,” according to an op-ed published by the Hawaii news site Honolulu Civil Beat. It adds, “the nuclear testing at Bikini remains one of the most devastating acts of environmental and cultural destruction in human history.”

The Manhattan Project Beer Company, which has several nuclear war-based names of dubious taste — such as Plutonium-239, Atomic Alliance, 10 Nanoseconds, and Particles Collide — released a statement on social media saying that “Through our brand and naming, we are creating awareness of the wider impacts and implications of the United States’s nuclear research programs and the pivotal moment in world history that is often forgotten.”

The company said that “our beer named Bikini Atoll was not created to mock or trivialize the nuclear testing that took place in the Marshall Islands,” and that they “will take no further action in this matter.”

They are only "sharing this because we have received significant harassment and death threats.”