Before the London Convention of 1972, an international agreement that prohibited marine dumping, countries were free to use the oceans as a trash heep for nuclear waste. Though the Soviets signed the treaty in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the Russians opened up to the international community about the extent of the Arctic dumping campaign.
‘There could be environmental consequences if something goes wrong.’
Two years ago, the Russian government provided a tally: two submarines, 14 reactors — five of which contain spent nuclear fuel — 19 other vessels sunk with radioactive waste on board, and about 17,000 containers holding radioactive waste. The last known dumping occurred in 1993.
Of particular concern are the two submarines, the K-27, which was dumped into the Kara Sea in 1981, and the K-159, which sunk in 2003 into the Barents Sea, while being towed for dismantling.