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June 03, 1980 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1980-06-03

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Paqe 4-Tuesday, June 3. 1980-The Michigan Daily

Ocean graveyards for


nuclear waste disposal
of c d) l nit t diffn in

SANDIEO-Ltte i knwnO sanai, poiu an u uson
SAN DIEGO-Littis knon Br through water action,earth crust
V. . ,*..>. of the deep ocean bottom or its By David Helvarg geology and delivery systems
at heUirsy f Mihianrole in maintaining the sea's
a tC hsecologicalb web of life, Strange, are not located where they were and security.
unidentified creatures live in the supposed to have been dumped In fact, the SDP has a second
black, slow-moving bottom and cannot now be found. Of function: Not only to assess the
waters. What appears tombe a 47,500 barrels of radioactive feasibility of sub-seabed disposal,
rCek wilitin front of an under- waste dumped near the Farallon but also to develop means for
te r six months, Islands off San Francisco, for monitoring the disposal methods
then suddenly grow arms and example, only 150 have been of other nations.
begin to crawl out of view. Thin, found, according to San Fran- "This helps foster an at-
r ts u n fo rtu n a pider-like creatures will float Cisco supervisor Quentin Kopp. mosphere of international
HE LAST two weeks have no doubt been like mosquitoesaround a camera Some 25 per cent of these, he cooperation," says Dr. Yayanos.
trying for the nearly 100,000 Cubans who left monitor's light source. Ethereal, claims, had broken open. THE ABILITY to turn high
their home country and made an often-dangerous 90- translucent forms will seem to .lPRESENTMREntha oue le eriasestsowe erat
mile trip to the U.S. shores in tiny, over-crowded hover on the visual edge of the million spent uranium fuel rods material suggests, however, that
bot.Pre noYrwe :eue estlmn oior hngieaa are piled up at some 70 operating the government has more than
boats. Herded into crowded refugee resettlement onitor, then glide nuclear plants throughout the international cooperation in mind
centers, most are anxious about the slow pace of 1,000 metersof ocean wthe upp United States. Government- in developing its monitoring
their reprocessing. The sweltering heat and the un- relatively well understood," says managed wastes from weapons capabilities. It also suggests the
certainty about whether their hopes for a new life Dr. A. A. Yayanos, a marine making and reprocessed fuel need for a major security com-
have been misfounded add to the growing tensions biologist at Scripps Institute of rodsrarey s ites and guardedat mitment not shipmentof thigh trans-
in the refugee camps. Oceanography eq San Diego, Carolina, Washington, New York waste under any future Seabed
Being a refugeeis not easy, and we can sym- want to answer concerns the and Illinois. Disposal program, but also an on-
pathize with the Cubans' plight. But we cannot con- deeper waters. They are President Carter has called on going armed surveillance at any
done the violence and rioting that left more than a questions that have not been an-
dozen injured over the weekend. swered in the past. Are there
America traditionally has had an open arms large mobile animals living in the ,.
policy toward admission of political dissidents. But deep waters near the bottom? If
policyso, in what numbers are they to
being able to come into this country should remain be found? How slowly do these
a privilege, not a right to which anyone disgruntled deep sea things metabolize?
with his or her own country is entitled. What is the micro-biological
While it is difficult to tell whether one is iake-uaccdent, wtrm? If there
protesting Communism or protesting the poverty pathways back to man?'
and misery Castro's government has spurred, it is DR. YAYANOS IS one of three
safe to assume that many of the almost 100,000 marine biologists at Scripps who,
Cubans seeking a haven in this country are along with dozens of other scien-
economic, not political, refugees. The U.S. tins,strator aengineers anodshoad-
originally planned to admit only 19,500 Cuban Oregon State, Sandi
refugees and only those with close families in the Laboratories, and the Depar-
U.S. and former political prisoners. Those tment of Energy in Washington,
thousands who came over "illegally" on the D.C. make up the infrastructure
Freedom Flotilla should realize how fortunate they of the six year old, $5 million a
year U.S. Seabed Disposal
are to be in a country that will help them resettle, Program. It is designed to study WHAT TO DO WITH the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants
guarantee them basic human rights, and allow the feasibility of storing high is a question the federal government has yet to answer. One federal
them to share economic opportunities. level nuclear wastes below the proposal suggests burying the waste under the ocean floor.
The 1,000 refugees who started the riot Sunday deep sea ocean bed. "We're not
were angr because their resettlement has been talking about 'dumping,"' Dr. various federal agencies to come deep sea disposal sites that might
.a.'Yayanos explains. "We're up with a final plan for per- be established.
delayed. If they are to stay in this country for long discussing the feasibility of manent nuclear waste disposal And of course there is the
they will have to learn that the bureaucracy of careful burial beneath deep sea by 1985. Despite a number of question of containment should
democracy is a slow process. sediment." proposals involving abandoned an accident occur at 22,000 feet
This inherently slow process has been made even The U.S. Congress banned all salt mines, caves and bore holes below the surface, for example,
worse by the Carter administration's bungling. In ocean dumping of nuclear wastes below atomic test sites, none of during the course of a tropical
in 1972. That same year an inter- the plans for land-based disposal storm "up top." Given the
the midst of the refugee riots Sunday, the Carter national treaty, the "London has proven technically feasible to limited success of oil-spill
administtration announced that in spite of CIA Dumping Convention," was writ- date. technology after some 45 years of
reports warning that an exodus of Cubans was ten banning all future disposal of The Seabed Disposal Program off-shore drilling, the question of
likely, the president failed to prepare for the influx. radioactive waste until ways (SDP) has set 1983 as an "im- accidents becomes a primary
. .i , could be found to guarantee mediate milestone" to show the one.
Given the Carter administrations previous inept against atomic pollution of the technical and environmental "That's why we have our on-
handling of the Cuban situation, this announcement seas. feasibility of their proposal to going studies," says Dr.
comes as no surprise. These steps were taken bury high level wastes 30 to 80 Yayanos, "so that scientists can
The president waited for weeks after the because of the haphazard man- meters below "the abyssal dep- examine every possible con-
refugees began arriving before he established a ner in which "low level" nuclear ths of the sea" (depths more than tingency. I believe that as long as
clear policy toward' refugee admission and reset- wastes had been dumped into the 15,000 feet). They hope to be able the research and development
ocean throughout the 1950s and to begin placing cannisters of funds keep coming we can have a
tlement. Even then, the administration was unable 60s. Certain low level wastes, high level waste below the ocean successful nuclear program. I
to enforce its newly-made policy and Cubans con- isotopes of cesium and strontium floor by 1990-95. don't believe our funding sources
tinued to flood Florida's shores. for example, may remain TO ACHIEVE THIS goal, the affect our judgment in any way.
The refugee riot may have seriously injured the dangerous for upwards of 24,000 project is working with scientists "The only thing I worry
Cubans' chances for peaceful settlement in many years. The Environmental from a number of other nations about," he adds, "is if after full
communities. Americans, upset over the tight job Protection Agency is halfway including Japan, Canada, study we find that the deep sea
through a 10-year study to find Britain, France and West Ger- disposal plan is only marginally
market, unfortunately may not be eager to out what has happened to dif- many, studying not only deep sea safe or useful but it gets put into
welcome newcomers, especially those who seem ferent ocean dump sites, and ecology and the "ladder effect" effect :apnyway for political
ungrateful'for the chance to live in this country. whether radioactive materials (the upward migration of bottom reasons."
Nevertheless, Americans should try to understand dumped at sea may have found matter through various
the tensions that prompted the rioting and accept their way into the food chain. One organisms), but also sediment David Helvarg is a freelance
of their earliest discoveries: engineering, ion integration (the journalis. He wrqte this artici
f"r d yi V sSevce.



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