Radioactive Waste Dumping In Oceans

There are many ways that radiation from both the military, energy, medical and nuclear power industries ends up in the oceans of the world. No one is calculating the total from ALL sources, but some information is available. Just the few reprocessing plants release enough radiation into the ocean and air EACH YEAR, to equal a full blown nuclear accident such as Three Mile Island. This simple fact is covered up and denied by the nuclear industry. 

“”Although dumping radioactive wastes at sea from ships is now banned, paradoxically the discharge of radioactive wastes into the sea via pipelines from land is not,” said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace. “Such ‘double standards’ are not maintained for technical or scientific reasons, but only because the operators of the nuclear reprocessing facilities in La Hague (France) and Sellafield (UK) want to save money.”

“It is cheaper for them to continue to use the sea as a radioactive garbage bin than to store this radioactive waste on land; for the nuclear industry, money comes first and the environment second”, said Mike Townsley (2).”

Gulf Seafood Radium Levels; Chernobyl in the Gulf of Mexico; via A Green Road
Windscale: Biggest Covered Up UK Nuclear Disaster? via A Green Road
Ozyorsk – Kyshtym – Mayak Nuclear Waste Reprocessing Center Disaster And Coverup; via A Green Road
La Hague; France‘s Nuclear Waste Nightmare; via A Green Road 
UK Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant Loses $1.2 Billion Pounds, Then Closes; via A Green Road
Hanford; Lethal And Leaking; A Race To Armageddon?  via A Green Road
Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant History, Accidents And Dangers; via A Green Road  
Dr. Ivan Oelrich; Nuclear Spent Fuel Reprocessing Greenwashing; via A Green Road

Dumping in the oceans is still happening as we can see from the above articles and measurements by Greenpeace as well as others. So it does a great disservice when Wikipedia reports nuclear dumping as something that happened ONLY in the past, and it is not happening anymore.

According to Wikipedia; “From 1946 through 1993, thirteen countries (fourteen, if the USSR and Russia are considered separately) used ocean disposal or ocean dumping as a method to dispose of nuclear/radioactive waste. The waste materials included both liquids and solids housed in various containers, as well as reactor vessels, with and without spent or damaged nuclear fuel.[1] 

Since 1993, ocean disposal has been banned by agreement through a number of international treaties. (London Convention (1972), Basel Convention, MARPOL 73/78)”Ocean floor disposal” (or sub-seabed disposal)—a more deliberate method of delivering radioactive waste to the ocean floor and depositing it into the seabed—was studied by the UK and Sweden, but never implemented.[2]

Data are from IAEA-TECDOC-1105.[1] page 3-4

1946 First dumping operation (USA) at Northeast Pacific Ocean (about 80 km off the coast of California

1957 First IAEA Advisory Group Meeting on Radioactive Waste Disposal into the Sea

1958 First United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I)

1972 Adoption of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention 1972)

1975 The London Convention 1972 entered into force (Prohibition of dumping of high level radioactive waste.)

1983 Decision on moratorium on low level waste dumping

1988 Assessing the Impact of Deep Sea Disposal of Low-level Radioactive Waste on Living Marine Resources. IAEA Technical Reports Series No. 288

1990 Estimation of Radiation Risks at Low Dose. IAEA-TECDOC-557

1993 Russia reported the dumping of high level nuclear waste including spend nuclear fuel by former USSR.

1994 Feb-20 Total prohibition of radioactive waste disposal at sea came into force

Disposal; 1946-1993

Data are from IAEA-TECDOC-1105.[1] 

Summary of page 27-120

Disposals were taken place under consideration of;
locate ideal dumping site for depth, stability and ocean current treatment of radioactive waste, solidification, containment

However some of dumping was done to dilute radioactive waste with surface water. Some containers imploded after being dumped due to the enormous pressures found in deep ocean water. 

Some containers survived the huge ocean pressures but their physical structure will decay in time while they sit on the ocean floor. Eventually these containers will ALL start leaking radioactive material.
Country total at the major site. SU=Soviet Union (39,243TBq), GB=UK (35,088TBq), CH=Switzerland (4,419TBq), BE=Belgium (2,120TBq). France (354TBq), Germany (0.2TBq), Italy (0.2TBq), Netherland (336TBq), Sweden (3.2TBq) are within GB marker, Russia (2.8TBq) is within SU marker. US total 3,496TBq, Japan 15TBq, So Korea ?TBq, New Zealand 1+TBq.

USSR, UK, Switzerland, US, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Russia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy and Korea had dumped waste at over 100 dumping sites.

Ocean dumping of radioactive waste 1946-93

Country dumped (unit TBq=1012Bq)period num of sites, volume, etc.
Arctic Atlantic Pacific Total
USSR 38,369 0 874 39,243 1959-92[3] Arctic; 20 sites, 222x103m3 and reactor w or w/o spent fuel,
Pacific Ocean (mainly sea of Japan); 12 sites, 145x103m3
Russia 0.7 0 2.1 2.8 1992-93 Arctic; 3,066m3,
Pacific Ocean 6,327m3
Belgium 0 2,120 0 2,120 1960-82 NE Atlantic 6 sites, 55,324 containers, 23.1x103tons
France 0 354 0 354 1967-69 NE Atlantic 2 sites, 46,396 containers, 14.3x103tons
Germany 0 0.2 0 0.2 1967 NE Atlantic 1 site once, 480 containers, 185tons
Italy 0 0.2 0 0.2 1969 NE Atlantic 1 site, 100 containers, 45tons
Netherlands 0 336 0 336 1967-82 NE Atlantic 4 sites, 28,428 containers, 19.2x103tons
Sweden 0 3.2 0 3.2 1959,61,69 Baltic sea 1 site, 230 containers, 64 tons, NEAtlantic 1 site, 289.5 containers, 1,080 tons,
Switzerland 0 4,419 0 4,419 1969-82 NE Atlantic, 3 sites, 7,420 containers, 5,321 tons
UK 0 35,088 0 35,088 1948-82 NE Atlantic 15 sites, ?? containers, 74,052 tons
and 18 sites off coast of British isles more than 9.4 TBq
USA 0 2,942 554 3,496 1946-70 Mid/NW of Atlantic(9), Gulf of Mexico(2) total 11 sites, 34,282 containers, ? tones,
Mid/NE of Pacific Ocean, total of 18 sites, 56,261 containers, ? tones
Japan 0 0 15.08 15.08 1955-69 South of main island, 6 sites 15 times, 3,031 containers, 606x103m3
New Zealand 0 0 1.04 1.04 1954-76 East coast of New Zealand, 4 sites, 9 containers, 0.62m3
South Korea 0 0 no data 1968-72 Sea of Japan, 1 site 5 times?, 115 container, 45 tons
Total 38,369 45,262 1,446 85,077

Total of 85.1×1015 Becquerel(Bq)(initial radioactivity at the time of dump) of radio active waste were disposed at sea.

Magnitude of radiation

Global fallout of nuclear weapon tests, 2,566,087x1015Bq.[4]
1986 Chernobyl disaster total release of 12,060x1015Bq.[5]
2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, estimate of total aerial release of radioactivity is 11,346x1015Bq.[6] Cooling water dumped (leaked) to the sea, TEPCO estimate 4.7x1015Bq、Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission estimate 15x1015Bq[7]、French Nuclear safety committee estimate 27x1015Bq[8]
One container (net 400kg) of vitrified high level radioactive waste has average of 4x1015Bq (Max 45x1015Bq).

Some countries reported mass of disposed waste with volume and some with tonnage. USA did not report tonnage nor volume of 90,543 containers.Subtotal of all volume reported is 982,394m3, which is about 4 times of the capacity of Exxon Valdez(235,000m3)Subtotal of reported tonnage is 137,392 tons, which is about 65% of deadweight tonnage of Exxon Valdez (209,836tons).
Types of waste and packaging

Data are from IAEA-TECDOC-1105.[1] page 6-7, 14

Liquid waste
unpackaged and diluted in surface waters
contained in package but not solidified

Solid waste
low level waste like resins, filters, material used for decontamination processes, etc., solidified with cement or bitumen and packaged in metal containers
unpackaged solid waste, mainly large parts of nuclear installations (steam generators, pumps, lids of reactor pressure vessels, etc.

Reactor vessels without nuclear fuel, containing damaged spent nuclear fuel solidified with polymer agent special container with damaged spent nuclear fuel (icebreaker Lenin by the former Soviet Union)

Ocean disposal (unit TBq = 1012Bq)
Waste type AtlanticPacific  Ocean Arctic total note
Reactors with spent fuel Nil Nil 36,876 36,876
Reactors w/o fuel 1,221 166 143 1,530
Low Level solid 44,043 821 585 45,449
Low level liquid Total 45,264 1445 38,369 85,078

Locations of dumping

Data are from IAEA-TECDOC-1105.[1] page 27-120


Mainly at the east coast of Novaya Zemlya at Kara Sea and relatively small proportion at Barentz Sea by USSR. Dumped at 20 sites from 1959-92,[3] total of 222x103m3 including reactors and spent fuel.

“Enormous quantities of decommissioned Russian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste were dumped into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia over a course of decades, according to documents given to Norwegian officials by Russian authorities and published in Norwegian media.” 

Arctic ocean dump sites of radioactive waste. SU=USSR (38,369TBq), RU=Russia (0.7TBq), SE=Sweden.

North Atlantic dump sites

Began with UK dumping in 1948 and last dumping in 1982 by UK, Switzerland, Belgium and Netherland. UK had reported many dumping around UK isles which were relatively low level or no available data and not plotted in the map.

78% of dumping at Atlantic Ocean is done by UK (35,088TBq), followed by Switzerland (4,419TBq), USA (2,924TBq) and Belgium (2,120TBq). Sunken USSR nuclear submarines are not included. see List of sunken nuclear submarines

137x103tones were dumped by 8 European countries. USA did not report tonnage nor volume of 34,282 containers.

BE=Belgium (2,120TBq), FR=France (354TBq), DE=Germany (0.2TBq), IT=Italy (0.2TBq), NL=Netherlands (336TBq),SE=Sweden (3.2TBq), CH=Switzerland (4,419TBq), GB=UK (35,088TBq), US=USA (2,942TBq), SU=USSR.
Pacific Ocean

USSR 874TBq, USA 554 TBq, Japan 15.1TBq, New Zealand 1+TBq and unknown figure by South Korea. 751x103m3 were dumped by Japan and USSR. USA did not report tonnage nor volume of 56,261 containers.

Dumping of contaminated water at 2011 Fukushima Nuclear accident (estimate 4,700-270,00TBq) is not included.

Fukushima; Pacific Ocean Catastrophe Confirmed; via A Green Road
Fukushima Leaking Radioactive Water Into Ocean Plume; via A Green Road

JP=Japan (15.1TBq), KR=South Korea (?TBq), NZ=New Zealand (1+TBq), RU=Russia (2.1TBq), SU=USSR (874TBq), US=USA (554TBq).
[edit]Sea of Japan

USSR dumped 749TBq in the Sea of Japan, Japan dumped 15.1TBq south of main island. South Korea dumped 45 tones (unknown radio activity value) in the Sea of Japan.

Dump sites in the Sea of Japan. Sites off coast of Nakhodka are of USSR and RU=Russia.

Environmental impact

Data are from IAEA-TECDOC-1105.[1] page 7

Arctic Ocean dump sites

The joint Russian-Norwegian expeditions (1992–94) collected sample from four waste dumping sites. At immediate vicinity of waste containers, elevated levels of radionuclide are found…

North-East Atlantic Ocean dump site

Dumped by UK, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Netherland, Sweden, German and Italy. IAEA had been studied since 1977. In the report of 1996 by CRESP suggests measurable leakages of radioactive material….

North-East Pacific Ocean, North-West Atlantic Ocean dump sites of USA

These sites are monitored by United States Environmental Protection Agency and US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So far no excess level of radionuclides were found in sample (sea water, sediments) collected in the area, except the sample taken at close location of disposed packages which contained elevated level of isotopes of caesium and plutonium.” 

Radioactive Waste Dumping In Oceans via A Green Road

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