• Short Summary


    Vast quantities of often-lethal nuclear waste are a legacy of the nuclear age -- and the problems surrounding the safe disposal of this waste are numerous.

  • Description

    1. GREENPEACE: SHARPNESS, UK. 1978: SV PULL BACK TO GV Nuclear waste being loaded at dock. 0.11
    2. UNDATED: GV PAN Nuclear power facilities INTERIORS technicians at work. (3 SHOTS) 0.25
    3. CU PAN Report of London Dumping Convention on nuclear waste classification. 0.31
    4. GV Spanish fishing fleet in area of European waste dumping ground. 0.39
    5. SWEDEN: TRACKING SHOT & GVs Underground land storage area for nuclear waste. (5 SHOTS) 0.52
    6. AT SEA, ATLANTIC OCEAN 1979: GVs Greenpeace protesters in small inflatable boats are doused with fire hoses from dumping ship. (3 SHOTS) 1.06
    7. LONDON, UK, 1979: GV TILT DOWN Street scene outside London Law Courts. 1.14
    8. ATLANTIC OCEAN, 1979: GV & GV PAN Dumping-ship, the Gem, in dumping operations. (2 SHOTS) 1.33
    9. GVs & SV Greenpeace inflatables speed towards Gem; protesters clamber aboard Gem and occupy dumping platform as Gem sound sits alarm. (3 SHOTS) 1.52
    10. GV & GV PAN Barrels of nuclear waste being loaded; police on guard at Amsterdam port as row of barges blocks entrance to harbour. (4 SHOTS) 2.10
    11. ATLANTIC OCEAN, 1982; GVS Dumping from Dutch vessel, Rijnborg, as Greenpeace inflatables attempt to disrupt operations; barrels are dropped near inflatables and one is hit, throwing its occupant into the ocean. (4 SHOTS) 2.46
    12. VIGO, SPAIN, 1982: GVs Sirius arrives in port to a rousing welcome from ten thousand people on quayside. (2 SHOTS) 3.07
    13. VISLIB: CHERBOURG, FRANCE, JANUARY 6, 1983; GVs & PAN Sirius arrives in port; armed police on quayside fire tear-gas canisters onto Sirius' deck; Sirius crew run for cover including cameraman. (4 SHOTS) 3.36
    14. SV PAN & GVs Sign saying, "Don't Ship Death Ashes"; police on board Sirius, use acetylene torch on anchor-chain and hit it with a hammer to break chain, as crew look on (2 SHOTS) 3.57
    15. GV Tug escorts Sirius out of inner port area. 4.04

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved


    Vast quantities of often-lethal nuclear waste are a legacy of the nuclear age -- and the problems surrounding the safe disposal of this waste are numerous. For some nations, the oceans provide a convenient dumping-round. In the late 1970s the practice of dumping radioactive waste at sea was little known. But organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth claim that the largely-unknown hazards of sea-dumping, especially concerning radioactive leakage, demand that the methods of nuclear-waste disposal be re-examined and that sea-dumping be stopped until more is know about its consequences. Although the number of dumping nations has been decreasing since World War Two, the quantity is significantly increasing. The London Convention on Ocean Waste Dumping, the international body set up to control ocean pollution, agreed on a two-year dumping moratorium, when it met in london in February. But the resolution does not bind the international community and nations such as Britain and Japan say their dumping operations will continue.

    SYNOPSIS: In 1978, Greenpeace focussed the world's attention on the little-known British port of Sharpness, and on this ship's cargo radioactive waste which was to be dumped at sea. The Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior, monitored and publicised the dumping, which until that time, had been virtually unknown. International debate on the practice soon followed and became an issue of worldwide concern.

    most of the radioactive waste which is dumped comes from nuclear power facilities and the weapons industry but some hospitals, universities and research laboratories also have their share of nuclear waste, which varies in its degree of radioactivity.

    The London Dumping Convention has classified radioactive wastes. It says highly-radioactive wastes such as a nuclear fuel must not be dumped in the ocean but, provided certain criteria are met, all other radioactive material can be disposed of at sea, under special permits.

    Spanish fishing vessels at sea, a few hundred kilometres north-west of Spain...in the area of chosen in 1967 as the European dumping-ground for radioactive waste. More than 100,000 (one hundred thousand) tonnes of this material has been dumped here.

    There are alternatives to disposal at sea. Sweden is one of many countries which has opted for land storage. This method, in contrast to sea-dumping allows the storage process to be closely monitored and the radioactivity prevented from dispersing and finding its way into the environment.

    Sea-dumping of nuclear waste has not only fired scientific and political controversy but a legal one, a well. In 1979, when the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior, confronted the dumping-vessel, Gen, in the Atlantic Ocean, the crew turned fire-hoses onto the protesters' inflatable boats, as Greenpeace moved in to disrupt the dumping operations.

    The issue was taken to the London law courts and an injunction was subsequently obtained to stop the British and Dutch branches of Greenpeace, the Rainbow Warrior and the London director of Greenpeace, Mr. Peter Wilkinson, from continuing the campaign.

    Greenpeace lost its appeal against the injunction anf faced two alternatives -- either ending the protest or challenging the legality of the British court's ruling on the protest, which had been held in international waters. They opted for the latter and the protest vessel, Sirius, put to sea. On locating the Gem, it was discovered that the dumping-vessel had enclosed its tipping-platforms with protective cages to prevent the Greenpeace boats from getting too close. So the Greenpeace crew adopted new tactics. Six people clambered aboard the Gem and chained themselves to two of the four tipping platforms. Soon after, Greenpeace inflatables disrupted dumping from the other two. The protest was called off after a Dutch court ruled against Greenpeace's action.

    Only four European countries still practice sea-dumping. There are two dumps each hear - British waste, and then a joint operation on behalf of the Dutch, Swiss and Belgians. The total amount disposed in one year is twice that dumped in United States operations over a 20-year period. Protests at the continued dumping operations have been held throughout Europe. In one Dutch protest, a row of barges was placed in Amsterdam harbour, blocking the entrance.

    Despite public opposition, the biggest-ever ocean dumping of nuclear waste took place last year. Two Dutch vessels were used to off-load ten thousand tonnes of waste. Greenpeace sent out its two environmental protection vessels, Cedarlea and Sirius, and the inevitable confrontations ensued between the dumpers and protesters. In one incident, huge concrete-lined barrels containing the waste, rained down on and near the Greenpeace inflatables. On the same day, three Greenpeace protesters occupied the dumping platforms on one of the vessels.

    Fearing for the safety of its members, Greenpeace withdrew its vessels from the area. And when Sirius arrived in the Spanish por of Vigo, ten thousand people gave the vessel a rousing welcome.

    The reception awaiting Sirius at another journey's end was not so welcoming. Sirius arrived in the French port of Cherbourg on January 6 this year, to protest at the imminent arrival of a Japanese dumping-ship. Ignoring a ban on entering the port, Sirius was boarded by armed police, using tear-gas. They arrested the crew, seized the vessel and severed its anchor-chain. Many countries -- France, West Germany, Italy, the United States and Sweden -- no longer dump their radioactive waste in the sea. Despite the protests surrounding last year's dumping operations, Britain plans to almost double its programme this year. Even though the radioactive waste dumped at sea is classed at low or medium levels, it still remains potentially harmful for thousands of years. Little is known about how long the waste-containers themselves last or how -- and if -- any radioactivity is dispersed. Until these and other relevant questions are answered. organisations such as Greenpeace say they will continue their campaign to halt the dumping of radioactive waste in the world's oceans.


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