|MadSci Network: Environment|
?Nekowav: Your question “how dangerous is dumping nuclear waste in the sea” and your comments about the Russian Sub’s raise many issues. Let me answer your questions and then give you some background on this issue. The first part of your question “has this or will this lead to major health problems.” To my knowledge there have been no documented health problems from the disposal of radioactive materials into the ocean. There have been significant and well-documented cases of chemical poisioning from contaminated seafood. The classic is the Mini Mata bay incident where many people were poisoned by mercury dumped into the bay, taken up by fish, and the fish eaten by people. Based on this and other scenarios, I believe that radionuclides could cause similar problems. Lobsters in the Irish Sea near the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, England, have been found to be contaminated with radiation. Ross Jeffrey of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization studying zooplankton near coral reefs, found that they accumulated naturally occurring radioisotopes from sea water. He feels his results will apply to fallout from nuclear tests and nuclear waste dumping. Cleaning up the nuclear as well as other wastes that were dumped into the deep ocean presents several challenges: First, is to locate them; second, recovering them from great depths; third, the costs involved and fourth what to do with the waste. An additional problem is that disturbing the containers may cause them to release their contents. The French state-controlled Plutonium Company (COGEMA) had contaminated the sea floor off Cap de la Hague last year when they attempted to clean a discharge pipe. In response to the accident, the French are planning to dredge the sea floor. Since this was close to shore, the clean up is feasible and practical. You mentioned the Russian sub that recently sank and the concerns that the radioactive material from it’s reactor will escape. This is just one of many possible sources of radioactive waste in the ocean. From the 1940's to 1972, when the London convention prohibited dumping of high level radioactive waste into the sea and on the sea bed . Radioactive wastes have been dumped into the deep ocean. Nuclear Power plants and fuel processing plants located along the coast discharge their radioactive effluents into the sea, such as Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, England, and the Cap de la Hague in France. The arctic seascape near Murmanske, Russia, has become a graveyard for the soviet nuclear submarine fleet. Highly radioactive spent fuel from submarine reactors has been piling up in shipyards and military bases. In some cases, storage facilities have leaked. Pakistan has been clandestinely dumping nuclear waste in the coastal waters of Balochistan. I hope I have answered your questions and given you some food for thought on how we have polluted and continue to pollute our home.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Environment .