You are here

#593 - September 26, 2003

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue


25 Years ago

NIRS and WISE both celebrate their 25th anniversaries this year. This is the twelfth article in a series, "25 years ago", comparing anti-nuclear news "then" and "now", to mark our first quarter-century of anti-nuclear campaigning.

In issue 3 of WISE Bulletin we wrote about plans for a big multinational fuel cycle plant in the Pacific: "The United States and Japanese nuclear authorities are planning a multinational nuclear fuel cycle facility in the U.S. Trust Territory of Micronesia. […] The likely location is the so far unspoiled island of Palau. […] The 'facility' would be under the joint control of the US and Japan and include uranium enrichment, reprocessing and waste disposal". (WISE Bulletin, December 1978)

In 1980, Palau passed the world'

s first national constitution outlawing toxic, chemical, biological and radioactive weapons and material on its soil. Palau became independent in 1994. (WISE News Communique, 24 June 1994)

A number of other proposals have existed for nuclear waste disposal sites in the Pacific region. In the 1970s the U.S. government studied the possibilities for an international disposal site at the island of Palmyra, northeast Pacific. The Americans would be willing to pay about US$ 20 million to buy the island and store 10,000 tons of nuclear waste. Three brothers that owned the island were reluctant to sell it and considered Palmyra unsuitable because of unstable climate conditions. (NRC (NL), 25 August 1979)

In the late 1980'

s, plans existed to store waste at the Marshall Islands of Bikini and Enewetok, which had been in use as U.S. nuclear weapons testing sites. Total costs of the dump site was estimated at US$ 1.5 billion. (Pacific Daily News, 20 December 1987; Pacific Island Monthly, June 1994)

In 1995, the U.S. Fuel and Security Services, founded by a former U.S. intelligence chief and ex-secretary of state, focused again on Palmyra to realize an international storage site for spent fuel. (Der Spiegel (FRG), 20 May 1996)

The U.S. Fuel and Security Services apparently was changed into the U.S. Nuclear disarmament Services, which selected both Palmyra and Wake Island to store spent fuel (as much as 200,000 tons) and excess weapons'

plutonium. (Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 8 April 1997)

Countries in the Pacific have signed anti waste dump conventions such as the 1985 Rarotonga Treaty, which was signed by all the nations of the South Pacific Forum. In September 1995, the Waigani Convention was adopted and opened for signature by the South Pacific Forum. The Convention lays down a ban on the imports of hazardous waste and was meant to improve regionally the existing 1989 Basel Convention (controlling transboundary movements of hazardous waste). At that time, radioactive waste was excluded from the Basel Convention. (Information from Laka Foundation, 25 September 2003)

None of the previously mentioned proposals have become reality. Climate change concerns have added an extra argument against the idea to realize a nuclear waste dump in the Pacific. Most island will be vulnerable to damage due to rising sea levels in the coming decades.


ISSN: 0889-3411