An interagency committee met for several hours Friday and failed to decide how to pay some $3 million for a long-delayed government aerial radiological survey of Bikini and other Marshall Island atolls according to informed sources.
The atolls received radioactive fallout during U.S. nuclear testing 20 or more years ago. The government promised former Bikini inhabitants in 1975 that the aerial survey would be undertaken as soon as possible.
Such a survey would identify residual radiation levels and locate pockets of dust-size plutonium - permitting its removal.
While awaiting the survey, returnees to Bikini have apparently been exposed to plutonium dust on the island since abnormal amounts that toxic, cancer-causing element have turned up in their bodies.
Last week it was disclosed that the Bikinians would have to move from that island. They had begun returning there nine years ago, after the Atomic Energy Commission declared the island safe for habitation.
Since 1975, bickering between the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies and the Department of the Interior has delayed the aerial survey.
The problem reportedly was solved last year when Interior obtained $2.1 million to reimburse the Navy for ships and helicopters that would be used in the survey.
Recently, however, the Navy said it had underestimated the cost and $3 million more was needed.
Another meeting of the interagency committee is planned for this week, with the Office of Management and Budget taking a role, sources said.