TED Case Studies

Japan Sea Contamination



     CASE NUMBER:        255
     CASE MNEMONIC:      JAPANSEA
     CASE NAME:          Japan Sea Contamination

I.  IDENTIFICATION

1.  The Issue

     The former Soviet Union and, now Russia, have reportedly
dumped radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan since 1950s. A report
of an environmental group, Greenpeace, first revealed the
surprising fact in February 1993, and Russian authorities admitted
it the following month.1 Even then, the Russian navy audaciously
dumped 900 tons of low level liquid nuclear waste directly in the
Sea of Japan in October, 1993.2 In the face of strong resentment in
Japan, the United States and other countries, the Russian
government reluctantly announced that it would suspend the dumping. 
Since the Sea of Japan is a fertile fishing ground for surrounding
countries such as, South Korea, North Korea, Japan and Russia
itself, it is feared that fish and sea plants may be contaminated
by those radioactive materials. Moreover, there may be possibility
that such dangerous substances spread out of the Sea of Japan. In
such a case, countries facing the Pacific Ocean might be threatened
by the radioactive contamination through sea foods.

2.   Description

     The former Soviet Union and Russia had dumped radioactive
waste on many occasions in the Far East water area including the
Sea of Japan since 1950s. Soviet Union/Russia had several dump
sites in the Sea of Japan and the North Pacific Ocean off Kamchatka
peninsula.

     It is been known that Soviet Union/Russia had disposed of
highly radioactive waste in the sea of Far East area on at least
six occasions since 1978.  In 1978, Soviet Union dumped two nuclear
reactors off North Korea. In 1985, it dumped radioactive waste in
the Pacific Ocean (specific location is unknown). In 1992, it
dumped containers of liquid radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan.
In 1989, it disposed of components of a submarine reactor in the
Pacific Ocean off Kamchatka peninsula. In 1992, it dumped
containers of nuclear waste in the Pacific off Kamchatka. In 1985,
Soviet submarine reactor exploded in the Sea of Japan and it has
continued to emit radiation ever since.3 In addition to those
dumpings, Russia seems to have continued to dispose of low-level
radioactive wastes as late as October 1993 when a Greenpeace vessel
witnessed and reported the Russia's dumping of liquid waste.

     In 1975, "Soviet Union had ratified an international treaty
that banned dumping reactor hardware and strictly controlled the
disposal of liquid radioactive waste, requiring that nuclear wastes
disposed of at sea be sunk at least 3,000 m."4  In addition, Soviet
Union/Russia is a signatory of London Dumping Convention in 1983
which "called for an immediate halt to all dumping of nuclear waste
at sea."5 Although Soviet Union/Russia signed these treaties, it
has ignored them. Obviously the above listed events are bold
violations of international agreements.

     It is believed that "the former Soviet Union dumped as many as
17,000 containers of solid and liquid nuclear waste into these
waters [Barents Sea and Kara Sea] between 1964-86, almost all of it
at depths of less than 300 m."6 Thus Soviet/Russia's dumpings were
not confined to far east area. The Arctic area is as much
threatened by nuclear wastes as the Sea of Japan.

     According to scientists, if radioactive wastes are placed at
depth of 500 meters or below there would be little threat to fish
and sea plants in the short run.7 But how about long run effects?
No one has ever given a clear answer to it. One thing that seems
obvious is that even if each of those reported dumping cases does
not affect the environment in reality, it guarantees no safety at
all. Accumulation of those wastes is likely to lead to serious
destruction of global environment, even though the effect of each
dumping is really insignificant.

     In October, 1993 the Russian prime minister mentioned a
shortage of nuclear watste processing facilities as the reason for
Russia's disposal of nuclear wastes at sea.8 He also said that he
was expecting assistance from other countries including Japan to
construct appropriate facilities and that if such aid was
insufficient or slow Russia would be forced to resume dumping in
the future.9 Thus, this environmental problem seems to be used as
a card for political bargaining by Russia.

     The most immediate concern of disposal of nuclear waste at sea
is the effect of radiation on the edible fish. Fish and sea plants
which inhabit the area might be contaminated by the waste. People
are likely to avoid buying fish caught in the allegedly polluted
area once they know of the disposal of dangerous substances. It
follows that obviously fishing would incur the most serious and
immediate damage from the dumping of nuclear wastes.

     The Sea of Japan is abundant in fish resources because a warm
and a cold current meet there. For example, squid is very popular
sea food in Japan, and much of squids consumed in Japan are caught
in the Sea of Japan. If the area is really contaminated by
radioactive wastes, not only the fishery industry but also
consumers in general will inflict damages.10 Fishing is generally
an important industry for countries surrounding the Sea of Japan. 

3.   Related Cases

     JAPANPL case
     ARCTIC case
     CHERNOB case
     KHAIN case
     CHERNOB case
     KHAIN case

     Keyword Clusters    
     (1): Product                  = FISH
     (2): Bio-geography            = OCEAN
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Pollution Sea [POLS]

4.   Draft Author: Takashi Morioka

B.   LEGAL Filters

5.   Discourse and Status:  Agreement and Inprogress

     Fundamental rules of the sea disposal of nuclear wastes are
stipulated in the London Dumping Convention of 1972 and have been
agreed upon by 61 signatories including Russia. Agreement has been
already reached. The current problem here is the violations of the
Convention by Russia which has been, in a sense, forced to do so
due to the economic difficulties and inappropriate nuclear policy. 

6.   Forum and Scope:  International Maritime Organization (IMO)
                         and MULTIlateral

     The International Maritime Organization is the administrative
organization to promote cooperation among the 61 signatories of the
London Dumping Convention.11

7.   Decision Breadth: 4

     Taking into account the magnitude of the possible pollution,
the effect is unlikely to spread beyond the Sea of Japan and
limited area of the northern Pacific off Russia.  Therefore only
countries surrounding the Sea of Japan, namely Russia, North Korea,
South Korea and Japan, are involved in the dispute.

8.   Legal Standing: TREATY

     The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by
Dumping of Waste and Other Matter (The London  Dumping Convention
of 1972), or London Dumping Convention, is the first and the most
significant international agreement concerning marine waste
disposal activities. So far, 61 nations have ratified it. The
convention regulates the disposal of toxic substances including
radioactive waste at sea.12

C.   GEOGRAPHIC Filters

9.   Geography

     a. Geographic Domain:  Pacific Ocean 
     b. Geographic Site:    Sea of Japan (Eastern Pacific) 
     c. Geographic Impact:  Russia 

10.  Sub-National Factors: NO

11.  Type of Habitat: OCEAN 

12.  Type of Measure: Regulatory ban 

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

14.  Relation of Trade Measure to Resource Impact

     Directly Related:        Yes  WASTE
     Indirectly Related:      No
     Not Related:             No
     Process:                 Yes  Pollution Sea [POLS]

15.  Trade Product Identification: Nuclear Waste 

16.  Economic Data

17.  Impact of Trade Restriction: HIGH

18. Industry Sector:  Utility [UTIL] 

     Most of radioactive waste came from electric power industry,
military, medical industry, and other scientific research
facilities.

19.  Exporter and Importer: RUSSIA and MANY

E.   ENVIRONMENT Filters

20.  Environmental Problem Type:  [POLS]  Sea Pollution 

21.  Species

     Name:          MANY
     Type:          MANY
     Diversity:     ?

     Among numerous sea species affected by pollution, squid is
particularly important in terms of the impact on human beings; if
squid, which is abundant in the area, is polluted by nuclear
wastes, it will damage not only the fishing industry but also the
health of the people.  

22.  Impact and Effect:  HIGH and PRODuct

23.  Urgency and Lifetime:  HIGH and 1000s of years

     Though the pollution caused by Russia's dumping of nuclear
waste does not seem to lead to the immediate destruction of sea
species, it still poses a serious threat to the existence of them
in the long run. Also it might have bad effects on health of human
beings. In this sense, urgency of the problem is high.
      
24.  Substitute: Biodegrable Products 

F.   OTHER Factors

25.  Culture: NO

26.  Human Rights: YES

     Dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan poses a serious
threat to the health of people in Far East region and other area
who would eat the contaminated sea foods. It would constitute a
serious violation of human rights if it actually causes cancer or
other diseases.

27.  Trans-boundary: YES

     The case impacts on at lreast five countries in Northeast
Asia.

28.  Relevant Literature

Barnard, William D., and Levinson, Howard. Waste in Marine
Environment. Washington, DC: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation,
1988.

Boudreaux, Richard, and Watanabe, Teresa. "Russian Nuclear 
Waste Sparks Feud," Los Angels Times, October 17, 1993.

Hiatt, Fred. "Russians Set to Dump Nuclear Waste at Sea - Move
Runs Counter to Moratorium, Laws," Washington Post, October
17,1993.

Sanger, David E. "Nuclear Material Dumped off Japan - Disposal 
of Waste by Russia Offsets Yeltsin Diplomacy," New York Times,
October 19, 1993.

Whitney, Craig R. "Russia Halts Nuclear Dumping in Sea," New York
Times, October 22, 1993.

Zyla, Melana. "Deep Trouble - Russian Nuclear Waste Dumped in Sea
of Japan," Far Eastern Economic Review, March 18, 1993.

                           Work Cited

     1 Boudreaux, Richard, and Watanabe, Teresa. "Russian Nuclear
Waste Sparks Feud," Los Angels Times, October 17, 1993.
     2 Hiatt, Fred. "Russians Set to Dump Nuclear Waste at Sea -
Move Runs Counter to Moratorium, Laws," Washington Post, October
17, 1993.
     3 Zyla, Melana. "Deep Trouble - Russian Nuclear Waste Dumped
in Sea of Japan," Far Eastern Economic Review, March 18, 1993.
     4 Ibid.
     5 Ibid.
     6 Ibid.
     7 Zyla, Melana. "Deep Trouble - Russian Nuclear Waste Dumped
in Sea of Japan," Far Eastern Economic Review, March 18, 1993.
     8 Whitny, Craig R. "Russia Halts Nuclear Dumping in Sea," New
York Times, October 22, 1993.
     9 Ibid.
     10 Sanger, David E. "Nuclear Material Dumped off Japan -
Disposal of Waste by Russia Offsets Yeltsin Diplomacy," New York
Times, October 19, 1993.
     11 Barnard, William D., and Levinson, Howard.  Waste in
Marine Environment, Washington, DC: Hemisphere Publishing
Corporation, 1988.
     12 Ibid.
    
    


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