Do Marine Matters Matter?

One document I pulled out of the crate mentioned in my previous post is a set of pages from “Nuclear Waste Management and the Use of the Sea: A Special Report to the President and Congress,” prepared by the United States National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere in April 1984. (Yeah, just like that Orwell book.)

Flipping through pages of attached notes, I come across two quotes that provide me with today’s questions.

From page 32 of the NACOA doc: “Accidents which have been sources of anthropogenic radioactivity in the ocean include: the loss of the nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion in the Atlantic Ocean, the crash near Thule, Greenland, of a US airplane carrying nuclear weapons, and the re-entry of a US aerospace nuclear power generator after a satellite launch malfunction. Possible other accidents are unknown.”

Ya think? We all know how eager the US government is to publicize the location of lost nuclear material, right? Just as eager as any other secretive nuclear nation. So, we can agree the US has probably lost more radioactive materials in the ocean than it will ever tell us. Just like all those other nuke nations, right?

And what about the stuff that wasn’t an accident? I remember reading that during the cold war, when Ronald Reagan was twisting the economic thumb screws on the USSR by ratcheting up the arms race, the USSR tried to keep pace by taking shortcuts, such as dumping radioactive waste from its nuclear weapons program and power plants into the ocean (location undisclosed – two-thirds of the nation’s border was coastline.) How many other nations on the fast track to nuclear weapons and nuclear power did the same thing?

Here’s what NACOA said about that issue: (page 33) “The United States and the rest of the world has been dumping low-level and high-level radioactive waste in the oceans for over forty years. During that time our knowledge of radioactivity and its inherent dangers has increased.”

So, forty years before 1984, the world started tossing radioactive trash into the ocean without knowing what harm that waste might eventually do. That was seventy years ago. How long does it take containers to corrode in salt water? How many nations have never stopped using the ocean as a cesspool where they can secretly dump unwanted radioactive waste?

On an unrelated matter – ever hear about whale die-offs not caused by the whaling industry? Inexplicable crashes of fish populations? Dead coral reefs?

Remember, on that evening when you go to watch the sun set over the ocean, and discover the waves glow in the dark, don’t try to blame it all on the earthquake in Japan. Or under Diablo Canyon.

About Deanne E. Gwinn

Writer: screenplays, fiction, poetry
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