Military Activity and Environmental Security: The Case of Radioactivity in the Arctic

by Peter Gizewski

The Circumpolar North


The Arctic has long been viewed as distant, pure, and natural. In reality it is the location of considerable military activity. During the Cold War, adversarial relations between the United States and the Soviet Union bred vigorous military deployments in the region in the name of deterrence. On the Soviet side, the Arctic provided a crucial base for naval power and a large portion of Moscow's seabased nuclear deterrent. For the West, it served as the location for air-defence systems dedicated to the early warning and assessment of an impending Soviet attack. Moreover, the region witnessed both an active Soviet nuclear-testing programme and an often intense underseas cat-and-mouse game as the superpowers probed each other's capability with hunter-killer submarines.

Today, the political rationale that drove much of this activity in the Arctic and elsewhere has virtually evaporated. The Cold War, together with its ideological competition that so embittered East-West relations, is over. In this era of diminished threat, security can be preserved with much lower levels of military force. Furthermore, political conditions now favour increased co-operation among states that are no longer adversaries. This co-operation embraces an agenda that is both military and non-military.

Central to a new agenda in the Arctic are efforts to remove the environmental legacies of the Cold War. Although a great deal of arctic pollution is attributable to industrial and commercial activity, the military clearly has contributed to the problem, and there is increasing concern that past military activities may produce greater destruction in the future.

Particularly notable is mounting evidence of environmental damage caused by the former Soviet Union. Although by no means the sole polluter of the North, the Soviet Union may have purchased its efforts to achieve superpower status at the price of ecological catastrophe both within and beyond its borders. The high concentration of U.S. and Russian military power continuing to inhabit the region makes worries about the future health of the arctic environment and its inhabitants even more acute.

Indeed, with the Arctic encompassing eight nations and an even greater number of distinct nationalities, the consequences of its environmental degradation extend beyond national boundaries and may heighten tensions and increase prospects for future conflict between states.

Military Activities/Radioactive Threats

Many military activities have affected the arctic environment. Manoeuvres on land and sea, tree-top aircraft overflights, and other military activities disturb fish-spawning grounds and reindeer herds and pastures and generally have a negative effect on arctic people, animals, and ecosystems. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from transformers used in the Distant Early Warning (DEW) and North Warning Systems (NWS) threaten the arctic food chain. In sum, three types of activity stand out: nuclear testing; naval accidents involving nuclear-armed/powered vessels; and the intentional dumping of radioactive materials into the ocean. Together, these activities raise the spectre of radioactive contamination of the North and, as such, represent a particularly serious threat to the health and welfare of the states and the peoples in the region.

Nuclear Testing

From the earliest days of the Cold War, both the U.S. and the USSR pursued vigorous nuclear-testing programmes to ensure the reliability, safety, and modernity of their nuclear arsenals. Both countries viewed testing as essential to nuclear deterrence, and deterrence as crucial to national security. The U.S. conducted much of its testing in Nevada, whereas the Soviets chose Semipalatinsk in central Asia. But a significant number of teRtR S1RA acenrred in the Arctic.

Nuclear testing in the Arctic has taken place at two sites: Amchitka Island of the Alaska Peninsula and on and around the two islands making up Novaya Zemlya off the arctic coast of the USSR. Little public information is available on the effects of U.S. testing at Amchitka. The few existing statements simply cite the environmental effect of the Amchitka programme as negligible or zero. Data on the Soviet-testing programme at Novaya Zemlya are more plentiful. Between 1955 and 1990, the islands were the site of approximately 132 nuclear tests. Of these, more than 90 were atmospheric whereas 42 occurred underground following the conclusion of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1963.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Novaya Zemlya served as Moscow's test centre and was the site of some of the world's largest test explosions, including the detonation of a 58-megaton multi-stage thermonuclear device off the coast on 30 October 1961. Although the site accounts for only 25% of all USSR testing, the aggregate yield of tests at Novaya Zemlya is estimated at 273 megatons, roughly 94% of the total megatonnage yield for all Soviet tests.

Testing on Novaya Zemlya represents the greatest single source of artificial (i.e., man-made) radioactive contamination in the Arctic. From 1958 to 1962, the large number of highyield atmospheric tests on the islands resulted in radioactive contamination not only on Russian territory but also in Alaska and northern Canada. In fact, fallout from all past atmospheric weapons testing ils still a major source of plutonium isotopes in the arctic seas.

The severity of contamination declined dramatically in the wake of the PTBT. Thereafter, the majority of Soviet test activity shifted to Semipalatinsk. and virtually all was underground and of lower yield.

The possibility of underground nuclear tests venting radionuclides as a result of inadequate containment remains a source of concern. The U.S. has detected traces of radioactivity from 20 to 25% of Soviet underground nuclear tests and has for years criticized Moscow for its inadequate precautions against venting. In 1987, venting at Novaya Zemlya reportedly released fission products throughout Sweden, producing the highest levels recorded in northern Sweden in 15 years, apart from the Chernobyl incident. Three years later, a second venting produced similar results.

Moscow's decision in 1989 to close its main test site at Semipalatinsk and to shift all testing back to Novaya Zemlya increased international worries about the danger to the Arctic. Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland expressed their concern to Moscow, as did the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). Domestically, the Association of Polar Explorers called upon Moscow to end nuclear testing in the Arctic.

Notwithstanding such concern, studies of the environmental risks of underground testing have produced ambiguous results. In April 1991, an international symposium conducted by the Canadian Centre for Global Security to examine the impact of underground testing determined that no observed impact on plant and animal life could be directly ascribed to the effect of underground nuclear explosions.2 Indeed, participants at the symposium concluded that there was "no evidence that underground tests had any impact on the Arctic biosystem, with the exception of the area that has been directly disturbed by the industrial activity associated with the testing programme."3

On the other hand, a satellite study recently conducted by researchers at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs has highlighted possible geological problems on Novaya Zemlya. Explosions at one site,4 for instance, produced craters in the earth's surface, which indicate the destruction of the entire permafrost layer under the site and the formation of a so-called chimney over the cavity. This discovery raises new possibilities of radioactive residues leaking from the caverns caused by the test explosions into the groundwater and eventually into the sea.

This possibility may seem remote, given current U.S. and Russian moratoria on nuclear testing and recent moves toward the negotiation of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Yet strong constituencies in both countries continue to maintain that nuclear testing is necessary for national security, and recent developments in other nuclear weapon states could strengthen their argument. France has come under severe pressure from its defence establishment to resume testing despite its current self-imposed moratorium. And on 5 October 1993, China conducted its 39th nuclear test at Lop Nor (in the Sinkiang Uighur region of Western China), despite international pressure not to do so.

These developments threaten to reverse the momentum for a test ban and could in fact unravel the unilateral testing moratoria currently observed in Moscow and Washington. The result could be a resumption of nuclear testing by the U.S. and perhaps also by Russia.

Accidents at Sea

For decades, American and Soviet nuclear submarines engaged in continual undersea military manoeuvres in the Arctic. While Soviet attack submarines endeavoured to protect their northern waters and ballistic missile submarines, their U.S. counterparts attempted to shadow and monitor the Soviet vessels. From 1945 to 1988, more than 20 naval accidents involving nuclear-armed or nuclear-propelled submarines or warships occurred in northern seas.5

A number of these naval accidents have been quite recent. In February 1992, a U.S. Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarine collided underwater with a Russian Sierra-class submarine in the Barents Sea just off the coast of Russia. Both vessels were reported to be carrying nuclear torpedoes and both vessels were damaged. If they had collided at a different angle, both might have sunk instantly, with no opportunity to shut down their nuclear reactors. The result could have been an environmental catastrophe. In March 1993, the American nuclear-powered attack submarine U.S.S. Grayling and a Russian Delta-class nuclear submarine on routine patrol collided off the coast of the Kola Peninsula. According to one report, if the Grayling had been just five seconds slower, it would have struck the Russian vessel' s missile bay and thereby could have sunk the submarine and scattered its nuclear warheads over the ocean floor.

This interaction of U.S.-Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), and its attendant risks, seems destined to continue despite the decline in Russian naval activity. Although the recent collisions have prompted the U.S. to restrict and review naval operations in the Barents Sea, SSNs continue to patrol beneath the arctic ice. Even as the U.S. Navy is shifting its focus from global threats to regional challenges and opportunities, recent statements illustrate that the navy remains committed to maintaining a forward presence in the Arctic.

Other incidents have raised additional concern. Most notably, technical malfunctions have resulted in the sinking of a number of U.S. and Soviet nuclear submarines along with their nuclear warheads at the bottom of the ocean. Over the past three decades, the U.S. Navy has lost two nuclear submarines, the Thresher and the Scorpion, and has admitted to dumping one nuclear reactor from the Seawolf, in 1959. More recently, in April 1989, a ship-board fire resulted in the sinking of the Komsomolets, a Soviet (Mike-class) SSN carrying two nuclear-armed torpedoes. Since then, the vessel has been the source of much controversy, largely because of its radioactive threat to the arctic environment.

The Komsomolets currently lies 1450 m underwater 240 km southwest of Bear Island, north of the Arctic Circle. It is leaking cesium 137, a carcinogenic isotope that can be stored in biological tissues. While investigations have so far shown no abnormal levels of radiation, scientists have expressed concern about future leaks and their long-term effects on the arctic ecology and food chain. Some scientists contend that a more intense leakage of radioactive materials may begin by 1995. Russian scientists have reported that the submarine's hull is damaged and that the torpedoes are no longer watertight.

A number of scientists have noted that even if leaks occur, the plutonium will be absorbed by the sediments on the ocean floor and remain localized. Others suggest that currents in the area of the wreck may be more violent than was originally thought and could distribute the sediments throughout the region. They also note that other radionuclides such as cesium 137 are mobilized much more easily than plutonium and could ultimately become widely dispersed throughout the Arctic Ocean.

Officials from Norway and the Russian Navy have denied that there is an immediate danger, but they continue to monitor the submarine closely. In August 1993, a U.S.-Russian research team investigated the Komsomolets and concluded that the danger of widespread contamination was negligible: any leakage of radioactive material most likely would settle on the sea floor near the vessel. Just one month later, however, other Russian officials announced that Moscow had decided to seal off the corroding nuclear torpedoes with a polymerizing gel to attempt to prevent plutonium leaks. Work is scheduled to begin by summer 1994 with or without western financing.

Radioactive Dumping

Compounding the concern about radioactive contamination in the Arctic are a litany of revelations about the past dumping practices of the Soviet Navy. Since 1991, a number of scientists, environmental activists, and Russian environmental of ficials have charged that the Soviet Navy and ice-breaking fleet dumped large amounts of radioactive material into the waters of the Barents and Kara seas for more than three decades. Much of the dumping was associated with the production of Soviet nuclear weapons and was thought to be located at five sites, the largest of which was in shallow waters off Novaya Zemlya.

Until recently, attempts to document the nature and extent of the dumping were either prohibited or circumscribed by Russian military authorities. This resistance has delayed the formulation of an effective response to the threat of contamination. In October 1992, for instance, the Greenpeace ship SOLO was stopped by the Russian coastguard as it attempted to examine submarine reactor dumps off the coast of Novaya Zemlya. Other researchers and journalists attempting to investigate the area have encountered similar obstructions.

By fall 1992, mounting international and domestic pressure had nevertheless secured the establishment of a 46-member multi-departmental Russian Commission to investigate the nature and extent of Soviet and Russian dumping practices. Established by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and chaired by Alexi Yablokov, the commission met with continual bureaucratic infighting that delayed its access to required information. By March 1993, however, the Yablokov Commission's report was released in limited form.6

The commission calculated that the USSR had dumped a total of 2.5 million curies of radioactive waste into ocean waters since 1965.7 Among the items dumped were 16 nuclear reactors from submarines and an icebreaker 8n the shallow gulfs off the eastern coast of Novaya Zemlya. Seven of the reactors—some of which date back to the 1960s, when reactors stored more plutonium—still contained highly radioactive nuclear fuel. In each case, a damaged reactor core prevented removal of the material.

As well, approximately 11,000 barrels of liquid and solid radioactive waste were dumped in the same region. Some containers were punctured to hasten sinking. According to Andrei Zolotkov, a legislator from Murmansk who was privy to some of the documentation on dumping, a container registering high levels of radiation washed onto the shores of Novaya Zemlya in 1984, only to be tossed back into the ocean. The Yablokov Commission's report also observes that the Soviet Navy sank two empty reactors in the Sea of Japan off eastern Russia, as well as additional barrels of radioactive waste there and in the Pacific Ocean.

Ocean dumping of radioactive waste is by no means unique to the USSR. Over the years, other nuclear nations such as the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Japan have dumped nuclear waste at sea. But, if reports are accurate, the amount of waste dumped by the Soviets is more than double the amount dumped by all the other nations over the last 45 years.

Moreover, much of the dumping documented in the commission's report occurred in waters ranging from 200 to 1000 feet (60 to 305 m) deep and thus contravenes the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, commonly known as the London Dumping Convention (LDC). This convention outlaws the dumping of high-level wastes at sea, initially restricting the disposal of low-level radioactive wastes to ocean basins greater than 12,000 feet (3658 m), and in 1985 establishing a legally non-binding moratorium on all radioactive dumping. In 1976 the USSR ratified the LDC, and although it abstained on the vote for the 1985 moratorium, Moscow consistently maintained that it had never dumped radioactive waste material.

Decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines tied-up
at the Pavlosk Submarine Base. Russian Far East.

It has been reported that further dumping also occurred inland. In August 1992, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of the CIA Robert Gates noted that, during the early days of the Cold War, radioactive waste from the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapons at the Chelyabinsk Nuclear Weapons Production Complex had been discharged into the Techa River, severely contaminating its watershed for thousands of miles.

After 1951, Russian military activities at the Mayak complex in the southern Urals led to the dumping of radioactive waste into Lake Karachai, where today the radiation is reportedly so great that as little as one hour's exposure at the shoreline could prove fatal. Radioactive contamination in the ground water has spread 2-3 km from the lake and, in 1957, an explosion from a waste tank at the complex reportedly contaminated more than 23,000 km2 in the region.

According to recent reports from the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow, subsurface pollution from Lake Karachai is moving at a rate of about 80 m per year and soon will reach the Misheliak River. The Mayak complex also stores 200,000 curies of radioactive waste in a system of reservoirs in danger of overflowing. Water from the region ultimately drains into the Ob River, which then flows north into the Arctic Ocean. At present, western scientists know little about the extent of radioactive pollution in the Ob. Russian scientists are investigating, but have not yet issued a report.

Assessing the Threat

Data provided by the Yablokov Commission and others amply chronicle the location and extent of Soviet and Russian dumping. Yet the information available is still insufficient to reveal the exact composition of the radioactive refuse, and little is known about whether the containers are intact, corroded, or leaking. The Yablokov report does not discuss plutonium in nuclear warheads lost in submarine sinkings, or examine the possibility of radioactive pollution from atmospheric, undersea, or underground nuclear testing at Novaya Zemlya.

Not surprisingly, speculation persists about the impact of all of those activities on the arctic environment. The past few years have witnessed a wealth of reports suggesting that the activities already may have had damaging effects on humans and other mammals in the region.

In the Russian Arctic, environmentalists and scientists have claimed that there has been a definite decrease in health quality over the last 15-20 years. Increases in mortality rates in cancer, and in blood, skin, and oncological diseases have been reported in the Arkhangelsk region. The Russian Academy of Medical Sciences recently observed that the cancer death rate in Chukotka jumped from 10% of the population in 1970 to 27% in 1988. That same year, Mary Simon, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), reported pleas for help from members of the Soviet Union's 26 indigenous peoples, who claimed that Inuit people were becoming ill from radioactive contamination in the environment. And, in April 1992, scientists noted that thousands of seals were dying off Russia's northern coastline as a result of radioactive pollution of the seabed.

More recently, Norway and Russia, two of the world's largest exporters of fish, have expressed concern about the effect of nuclear dumping on their fish industries. Concern is especially high in Russia, where the fishing industry remains a vital source of hard currency in economically desperate times. A reduction in sales of fish and reindeer meat also could negatively affect the living conditions of indigenous peoples, who are highly dependent on the export of both products.

Many officials representing governments in the arctic region contend that the immediate risks of radioactive contamination to humans and arctic life are small, and note that none of the dump sites are near important fishing or spawning grounds. They point out that the Kara Sea remains frozen for 9 months each year and contains little biological activity and the fishing grounds of the Barents, White, and the Norwegian seas are hundreds of miles away. Furthermore, they suggest that much of the dumped material may have lost a good deal of its radioactivity, by now amounting perhaps to fewer than one million curies.

In fact, some of ficials contend that ocean dumping may be safer than land burial, with its potential for poisoning underground water. Some add that alarms sounding from Moscow are greatly exaggerated and have more to do with leveraging western aid to finance a clean-up than with describing a genuine regional threat.

Nevertheless, most scientists and officials admit that the longer term effects of dumping are more worrisome. As containers break down and as submarines corrode, the materials within have the potential to pollute marine life and disperse radioactivity into the ecosystem. Thereafter, strong currents could carry contaminants into fishing grounds and into the feeding areas of sea mammals and birds.

Non-governmental sources convey a greater sense of urgency, distinguishing less between short- and long-term effects in the hope of mobilizing political constituencies to address the problem more forcefully. For instance, Greenpeace researchers have argued that states cannot afford to adopt a "wait and see attitude" toward radioactive contamination. They insist that nuclear wastes must be quickly removed from the oceans and buried on land.

Calls for prompt action are glven added credence by the possibility that past dumping represents only part of the pollution problem. Approximately 90 older Russian nuclear submarines have been decommissioned recently, and about 50 or 60 in the Northern Fleet are due for disposal over the next decade. Submarine reactors requiring disposal will thus number well over 200. The poor design and safety record of these propulsion reactors has led to some speculation about the potential for "maritime Chernobyls." A powerful argument for action on this issue comes from the Yablokov Commission itself, which warns that because there are currently no on-shore storage sites for the radioactive waste and no reprocessing facilities, the Russian Navy will be unable to halt the discharge of the radioactive by-products of decommissioned vessels.

As if to underscore the point, in mid-October 1993 a Russian ship discharged 900 tons of low-level radioactive waste from submarine engine coolants into the Sea of Japan. And while protests from Japan, the U.S., and other states have led Moscow to suspend plans for further dumping, Russian officials have stated that foreign financial assistance is urgently needed for the construction of a nuclear waste-processing plant to avoid resumed dumping. Russian estimates place the cost of the plant at $8.5 million.

In future, other countries may seek similar means of disposal for their submarines. Both Britain and France must soon decommission a number of submarines and power stations, and could seek to resume ocean dumDinz.

Meeting the Challenge

It is clear from available information that the current risks posed by nuclear testing, sunken nuclear submarines, and radioactive dumping to the arctic environment are somewhat tentative. Data are incomplete and, in some cases, inaccessible. Nevertheless, the information at hand justifies the growing concern and the conclusion that a prompt response is necessarv. Without concerted efforts to address the issue of radioactivity in the North, the risks to the arctic environment as well as the prospects for tension and conflict among the inhabitants of the region may increase. Radioactive materials released into the ocean or atmosphere do not respect national borders. Even in the absence of a clear threat, the need for action remains.

A growing recognition of the potential consequences of such practices and the vulnerability of the arctic environment already has led to some efforts to protect it from further damage and to repair the damage done. Meeting under the aegis of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), in 1992 the eight arctic states adopted the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP): an arctic-wide monitoring plan to acquire information on the extent of environmental risks, including those posed by radioactivity. The programme consists of an overall implementation plan as well as individual national implementation plans for each arctic state.9 In February 1993, AMAP established a three-year international programme to assess the existing and possible future radiological and environmental impact of nuclear dumping and the need for remedial action. Known as the International Arctic Seas Assessment Project (IASAP), the programme is managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in co-operation with a Norwegian-Russian group of experts. Recently, the project launched an expedition to inspect the condition of dumped material and to collect samples from dump sites and surrounding areas to assess leakage. That information is currently being analysed and eventually will be provided to AMAP.

As for future initiatives, the Commission of the European Community's (CEC) Radiation Protection Programme (RPP) plans to undertake a project on marine ecosystems in the arctic region with special reference to the behaviour of transuranics and long-lived radionuclides. The NATO-based Committee on Challenges to Modern Society (CCMS) has recently organized, within the framework of the Brussels-based North Atlantic Co-operation Council, a study to identify radioactive contamination and health risks associated with defence-related activities in the Barents, Laptev, and Baltic seas. And the U.S. government, through the Of fice of Naval Research, is sponsoring activities to support an initial assessment of radionuclide levels in arctic and north pacific waters; an initial assessment of dumped material in these waters; predictions of the fate of contaminants if release occurs; and information to guide the selection of monitoring sites.

Other organizations have pledged support for these initiatives. Indeed, both the Nuclear Energy Agency of OECD and the recently established Barents Euro-Arctic Council have registered strong commitments to the cause of arctic environmental protection in general. and the problem of radioactive pollution in particular.

Finally, efforts are under way to extend the LDC ' s moratorium into an outright ban on ocean dumping of all radioactive waste. In July 1993, Denmark proposed a total ban based on the principle of a "precautionary approach," which holds that in light of the incomplete state of knowledge on these issues and the relatively short period of data collection, caution must govern decision-making, and irreversible measures should be avoided. The Denmark proposal prohibits all radioactive dumping unless and until proponents can convincingly demonstrate that sea-based disposal is safe. Adoption of the proposal would follow a two-thirds vote of the 70 countries that have ratified the convention. Parties to the LDC have agreed to hold an amendment conference in spring 1994. On 12 November 1993, 37 states voted to include the ban among the amendments to be adopted formally at the spring conference.

At present, international support for the ban is high, but it does face some opposition. In particular, officials in the U.S. Department of Defense oppose the initiative on grounds that it may unduly restrict future operations of the U.S. Navv.

The Need for Further Measures

The initiatives undertaken thus far underscore that much remains to be done. The chief task is to acquire more detailed information on the extent of the problem. In the case of dumping, this task is under way and will, we hope, include additional data on the location of all dump sites, the type of waste dumped, when such dumping occurred, and the types of containment used. Similar efforts are needed for nuclear testing and for sunken nuclear warheads. Soviet records and detailed scientific surveys are crucial to these enterprises. The Russian government should release all relevant information as quickly as possible.

Beyond this need for data lie the challenges of assessing, cleaning-up, and disposing of radioactive waste. Even if adequate data are made available, raising the material and disposing of it safely is likely to cost billions of dollars. Progress will be difficult. Threats must be ranked; a plan of action developed; and agreed-upon measures implemented. Given the numerous other problems that Russia currently confronts, we would be unwise—if not naive—to expect Moscow to tackle such challenges alone. Sustained international financial and technical assistance will be required. Equally important is the need to ensure close co-ordination of any multinational response.

Steps also must be taken to prevent additional dangers. The activities that have contributed to the existing problems of radioactive pollution in the Arctic could continue in future. Nuclear testing may resume, nuclear-powered submarines will go on patrolling the Arctic, and incentives to dump radioactive material are likely to endure. To ensure more fully against the future environmental dangers presented by these activities, a number of preventive measures warrant consideration.

First, the LDC ' s moratorium on the dumping of radioactive waste in the oceans must be transformed into an outright ban Such a ban should be based on a "precautionary approach" to dumping, which places the burden of proof of the safety of any future sea-based disposal on its proponent.

Second, all necessary steps should be taken to prevent a resumption of nuclear testing in the Arctic. The United States, Russia, France, China, and the United Kingdom should negotiate a comprehensive test ban as soon as possible. In the meantime, existing moratoria on testing should be extended and China and the U.K. encouraged to introduce their own moratoria until a CTBT is signed and enters into force.

Third, the United States and Russia should negotiate a reduction in their numbers of nuclear-powered attack sub marines. Reduced numbers of SSNs would force the U.S. and

Russian navies to concentrate their remaining submarines on primary missions: for Russia, the defence of its arctic waters; for the United States, the protection of its carrier battle groups for regional contingencies. The result, accordingly, would be a greater separation of these forces and a reduction in, if not an end to, dangerous underwater confrontations in the Arctic.

Fourth, to help ensure against irresponsible disposal in future, the international community must establish guidelines for the safe disposal of nuclear submarines and the safe handling of nuclear waste and then do everything possible to ensure that all countries subscribe to the guidelines.

Finally, it is time for the nations of the Arctic to adopt a circumpolar perspective on arctic security. 10 Today there are common regional interests among the eight arctic states and their peoples and all circumpolar nations—not just the U.S. and Russia—have a responsibility for the peaceful development of the region. Crucial to this development is a recognition that the concept of security encompasses not only military but also social, economic, and, indeed, environmental dimensions.

With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia must once and for all synchronize military activities with new political realities. The Arctic must no longer play host to military activity based on the logic of a bygone era. Not only are the military threats too low, but the environmental risks may well be too high.

Peter Gizewski is Research Associate, Canadian Centre for Global Security.


1. See, Arctic Monitonng and Assessment Task Force, "Report to Ministers: Update on Issues of Concern to the Arctic Environment, lncluding Recommendations for Action," AMAP Report 93:4 (Oslo: Arctic Environment and Assessment Programme, September 1993), p. 21.

2. See, Canadian Centre for Global Secunty, "Containment of the Environ

mental Effects of Underground Nuclear Testing" (Forthcoming).

3. Ibid.

4. See Johny Skorve and John Kristen Skogan, "The NUPI Satellite Study of the Northern Underground Test Area on Novaya Zemlya: A Summary Report of Preliminary Results," Research Report No. 164 (Oslo: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, December 1992).

5. Compilations of these and other types of naval accidents are provided in William A. Arkin and Joshua Handler, "Naval Accidents: 1945-1988," Neptune Papers No.3 (Washington D.C.: Greenpeace/lnstitute for Policy Studies, June 1989), and Joshua Handler, Amy Wichenheiser and William M. ArEn, "Naval Safety 1989: The Year of the Accident" (Washington D.C.: Greenpeace/lnstitute for Policy Studies, Apnl 1990).

6. See, Of fice of the President of the Russian Federation, "Facts and Problems Related to Radioactive Waste Disposal in Seas Adjacent to the Territory of the Russian Federation" (Moscow: Office of the President of the RussianFederation,1993).

7. Ibid., p. 32. A curie is the amount of radiation released by one gram of radium.

8. Ibid., pp. 24 and 27.

9. M.A. Lange, P.L. Brezonik, T.W. Clarkson, J.S. Gray, G.H.R. Henry and O. Hov, "Audit Report: Arctic Monitonng and Assessment Programme, First Implementation Plans," AMAP Report 93:5 (Oslo: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, 1993), pp.5-6.

10. On this point, see David Cox and Tanq Raut "Secunty Co-operation in the Arctic: A Canadian Response to Murmansk," Report of the Panel on Arctic Arms Control (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament,1989) and Peter Gizewski, "Arctic Secunty After the Thaw: A Post-Cold War Reassessment," Report of the Panel on Arctic Security (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Global Security, January 1993). In addition to the call for a circumpolar perspective, both reports advance arms control proposals similar to those discussed above.

"In This Issue..."