United States secretly colluded with Japan to help dump nuclear reactors in oceans

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The United States secretly sought Japan’s support in 1972 to enable it to dump decommissioned nuclear reactors into the world’s oceans under the London Convention, an international treaty being drawn up at the time.

Countries working on the wording of the pact wanted to specifically prohibit the dumping of radioactive waste at sea.

But Washington wanted to incorporate an exceptional clause in the case of decommissioned nuclear reactors.

These facts came to light in diplomatic records held by the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo and released at the request of The Asahi Shimbun.

Japan did not offer a clear answer when it was approached by the United States on the issue. Eventually, however, Washington succeeded in incorporating the clause into the treaty.

It was apparent that the United States constructed nuclear reactors without having decided on disposal methods, forcing it to consider dumping them at sea after they were decommissioned.

The documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun were signed by Japan’s ambassador to Britain and designated as top secret.

According to the records, a US State Department official who was part of the US delegation discussing the terms of the treaty, met his Japanese counterpart in November 1972. In that meeting, the official explained that the United States had a number of early-stage nuclear reactors which had reached their life spans. He said Washington was facing problems disposing of them.

The official noted that any attempt to bury the reactors on land would invite a public backlash.

He also pointed to the financial difficulty of scientifically processing the reactors until the risk of radioactive contamination was totally eliminated.

Then, the official said the only other option was to dump them at sea, and asked Japan for cooperation.

Eventually, during the general meeting of countries for the London Convention, the United States proposed incorporating a clause that would enable it to dump nuclear reactors at sea in exceptional cases in which all other means of disposal presented a risk to human health.

When presenting the proposal, the United States made no mention of its intention to dump its nuclear reactors at sea far into the future. The proposal was accepted.

In the early 1970s, sea pollution was a huge international issue.

In 1993 revisions to the London Convention, the dumping of radioactive waste at sea was totally prohibited. However, the clause that approved of dumping in exceptional cases remained.

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