Secret radioactive dumping in Pacific
WASHINGTON — Reports from the European press that the Soviet Navy secretly dumped nuclear reactors and radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan indicate a more damaging nuclear legacy of the Cold War than previously known, according to Greenpeace.
Independent Television News (ITN) of Britain, based on documents allegedly used by a Russian government commission, reported that the Soviet Union dumped two nuclear reactors south of Vladivostok in the Sea of Japan in 1978, a nuclear reactor screen off the eastern coast of Kamchatka in 1989 and ships filled with radioactive waste as well as other solid and liquid radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan from the mid-1960s to 1992.
These reports follow a Greenpeace study released on February 26, based on research in Russia from July to November 1992, that said the dumping of lower-level radioactive wastes had occurred in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok. Residents of the area told Greenpeace, during a visit by the Rainbow Warrior in October 1992, that ships loaded with radioactive waste regularly left nuclear submarine shipyards near Vladivostok to dump their loads in the Sea of Japan.
The Greenpeace study also found that 13 damaged reactors from nuclear-powered submarines in the Northern Fleet were dumped at sea near the Arctic islands of Novaya Zemlya. Similar dumpings in the Pacific were suspected but have not been officially confirmed.
"The reports of the dumping of nuclear reactors with fuel, if true, represent a significant addition to the tally of dumped ex-Soviet submarine reactors", said Josh Handler, author of the Greenpeace report. "We did not find any evidence of the dumping of submarine reactors in the Pacific while we were in the Russian Far East, but experience with past Soviet radioactive waste disposal practices tells us this possibility cannot be absolutely excluded."
The ITN information reportedly comes from material sent to the Commission on Questions Connected with the Dumping and Burial at Sea of Radioactive Waste. The commission was appointed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin on October 24 and delivered a complete report to him on February 15.
"We look forward to President Yeltsin's release of the full report so that we can finally know the full extent of the danger and initiate a clean-up program as soon as possible", Handler said.