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DYNAMICS OF RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION OF PRIMORYE TERRITORY AND THE NORTHERN SHELF OF THE SEA OF JAPAN

V.N.Soifer, V.A.Goryachev, A.F.Sergeev

Pacific Oceanology Institute

Investigations of the radioecological conditions in Primorye Territory and the Far-East region as a whole show that these conditions are closely connected to the radiation in the northern part of the Sea of Japan. Radiation contamination seems to be an acute problem in the Asia-Pacific region for three main reasons:

  • From almost the first years of the Soviet Union, this region has been completely closed to civilian organizations and individual researchers, inasmuch as intensive construction and development of military bases continued there for decades both before and after the Second World War.

  • The regional problem has caused public concern in the Russian Federation, Japan, Korea, the United States, and other states that have vital interests (fishery, aquaculture, recreation) that are potentially threatened by radioecological accidents and radioactive waste from Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

  • The program of fleet reduction should have been completed in the region by 2000. During the last 10 years, 54 nuclear submarines have been taken out of commission, but only 10 were adequately salvaged with attention to wastes.

Governmental data and our own data were obtained and analyzed during long-term investigations of radiation conditions of the territories adjacent to submarine repair facilities and bases. Also, a study of radionuclide distribution in Peter the Great Bay was carried out. On the basis of these studies, we reached conclusions about the relatively insignificant contribution of anthropogenic sources of radionuclides to radiation background levels of our region as a whole.



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OCR for page 133
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop DYNAMICS OF RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION OF PRIMORYE TERRITORY AND THE NORTHERN SHELF OF THE SEA OF JAPAN V.N.Soifer, V.A.Goryachev, A.F.Sergeev Pacific Oceanology Institute Investigations of the radioecological conditions in Primorye Territory and the Far-East region as a whole show that these conditions are closely connected to the radiation in the northern part of the Sea of Japan. Radiation contamination seems to be an acute problem in the Asia-Pacific region for three main reasons: From almost the first years of the Soviet Union, this region has been completely closed to civilian organizations and individual researchers, inasmuch as intensive construction and development of military bases continued there for decades both before and after the Second World War. The regional problem has caused public concern in the Russian Federation, Japan, Korea, the United States, and other states that have vital interests (fishery, aquaculture, recreation) that are potentially threatened by radioecological accidents and radioactive waste from Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The program of fleet reduction should have been completed in the region by 2000. During the last 10 years, 54 nuclear submarines have been taken out of commission, but only 10 were adequately salvaged with attention to wastes. Governmental data and our own data were obtained and analyzed during long-term investigations of radiation conditions of the territories adjacent to submarine repair facilities and bases. Also, a study of radionuclide distribution in Peter the Great Bay was carried out. On the basis of these studies, we reached conclusions about the relatively insignificant contribution of anthropogenic sources of radionuclides to radiation background levels of our region as a whole.

OCR for page 133
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Such sources average less than one percent of the total. Besides local pollution sources from the fleet, we also investigated global sources. A comparison of the effect of the last Chinese atmospheric nuclear test in 1980 with the consequences of the Chernobyl accident showed that the nuclear test effects were longer (more than one year) and had a higher level of total beta-activity of the lower atmosphere in Primorye Territory. However, total beta-activity levels of the two releases were comparable. Concerning probable radioactive environmental pollution of the south of Primorye Territory (in the opinion of experts of the Fleet’s chemical service), the coastal facilities along the bays of Bolshoi Kamen, Sysoyeva, and Chazhma are sources. These facilities deal with recharging nuclear reactors; replacement of filters; collection, temporary storage, and processing of radioactive waste; temporary storage of used nuclear assemblages; and repair and deactivation of contaminated equipment. Also potentially dangerous are the places where oil tankers with radioactive waste facilities were operating. The main components of radioactive waste are 137Cs, 90Sr, 60Co, and 144Ce. Until 1993, burial of liquid and solid radioactive waste had been carried out in deep-water regions of the northwestern part of the Sea of Japan, 200–300 kilometers from the coastline. The spontaneous chain reaction on a submarine in Bolshaya Chazhma in August 1985 has remained the most severe nuclear incident. It preceded the accident at Chernobyl and belongs to the following class of incidents: Uncontrolled reactor regime involving destruction of the active zone. Release of fission products into the environment—the atmosphere and the seawater in the bay. Wind transportation of aerosols of small dispersed particles through the industrial zone (the Navy ship repair works) and further, through the coastal part of the Dunai Peninsula with residential settlements. The difference between this nuclear incident and Chernobyl is that it took place with a reactor of a distinctly different design and with ten times less power. Its fuel assembly did not contain radioactive products accumulated during previous operation. Just before the accident, the reactor had been loaded with new fuel elements. We have carried out the following studies as an independent expert examination of government activity in 1991–1994. We obtained the following data about the probable damage of the environment by the accident: The amount of radioactivity, its radionuclide composition, and its explosion potential were developed. Models of atmospheric transport and gradual redirection of radioactivity in Ussurisk Bay were developed.

OCR for page 133
The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Numerical estimates of turbulent transportation of radionuclides in water and their release into the atmosphere were carried out. The dynamic processes of redeposition of high-level radioactive pollution in the upper layer of seafloor deposits directly in the zone of the accident were studied experimentally. Estimates were made of future conditions of the bodies of water with attention to long-lived radionuclides. Investigations of Ussurisk Bay in 1990– 1992, using tritium tracers and numerical modeling, were evaluated. Evaluations of doses received by the population of Dunai as a result of the accident in Chazhma Bay were carried out. The population received the heaviest radioactive doses during inhalation of iodine radioactive isotopes—131I, 132I, 133I, 134I, and 135I. The coefficients of risk for the population of Dunai were evaluated. The population of Dunai is 20,000. Twenty-two additional deaths caused by all forms of cancer and the same number of non-lethal cancer cases were predicted in Dunai. The inhabitants who were up to 150 meters distant from the explosion along the trace axis received significant doses of external gamma-irradiation and external beta-irradiation of the skin. The analysis of bottom samples from Chazhma Bay has shown that the distribution of radioactivity, which depends more than 95 percent on 60Co, is non-uniform over the area and along the vertical. A large part of activity in the epicenter zone is situated at a depth of 15–20 centimeters from the bottom. Some solid grains were extruded from the bottom samples with the help of magnetic separation of highly-active samples. These “hot” particles from the fuel assembly contribute 50 percent to the total radioactivity of the sample. The main processes influencing the space-time variations of radionuclides in bottom deposits in the region of the accident are radionuclide transport in water and radioactive decay. The flushing of radioactivity from the bay into Strelok Gulf reduces levels by about one percent annually. Radioactive decay of 60Co reduces levels each year by about 12 percent. This ratio is explained by the limited water dynamics, intensive sedimentation, concentration of most activity in larger “hot” particles with higher density, and low solubility of “hot” particles in seawater.

OCR for page 133
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