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Operation Grapple, Kiritimati - Christmas Island, Pa...

Grappling with waste on Christmas Island

‘Operation Grapple’ was the codename for the UK nuclear testing program for the development of the hydrogen bomb in the 1950s. The testing was undertaken on Christmas Island – a little-known island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

In order to improve the Island's infrastructure for the testing, a large number of vehicles and an array of construction equipment was needed. Roads were laid, and runways and quays built.

Most of this equipment was left on the island at the end of the project, with some items simply being driven to open beach areas and abandoned.

When the clean-up of the island was sent out to tender by the UK government, a Dutch / UK joint venture dispatched Mayer Environmental to the island to review potential contamination and assess the required clean-up, as well as research the island’s logistics.

Waste discovered on the island ranged from asbestos, bitumen, metals and radioactive sources (mostly as luminous radium dials) to rusting hulks of vehicles, coral crushers and tarmac plants.

The Mayer solution

The contract involved packaging these varied materials for export and treatment/disposal away from the island. Given that the remote island is located more than 4,000 miles from Sydney and more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco, this was no easy task.

Mayer’s wide skill set and vast experience in areas such as contaminated land, waste and resource management enabled us to collect all of the required information and suggest innovative solutions for the clean-up operation. Our clients incorporated our findings in to their bid for the clean up contract


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