In recent years, considerable attention, both public and press, has been paid to land-based nuclear reactors. Little attention has been paid to their nuclear counterparts on the high seas.
Yet, for three decades, floating nuclear power plants have been steaming the world’s oceans with few questions asked.
Marine reactors are developed and controlled almost entirely by the world’s military forces with virtually no civilian independent oversight or international control.
Since the 1950’s the Navy has annually testified before Congress that there has never been an accident involving a naval reactor, or any release of radioactivity which has had a significant effect on individuals or the environment.
That statement stands in sharp contrast to a recently published list which documents 126 accidents involving nuclear powered vessels, including accounts of fires, floods, collisions, and sinkings. Among the accidents cited were 37 involving the reactors of these ships, including 13 discharges of radioactive material into U.S. coastal waters.
The Navy recorded these events as “incidents” and “discrepancies” and not as accidents. Therefore, through Naval nuke-speak, the Navy can claim no “accidents.”
For the past 15 years there hasn’t been a radiological survey of nuclear ports in the U.S. by independent agencies.
Official Navy policy states that solid nuclear wastes are no longer disposed of at sea. But, according to interviews with former submarine and shipyard personnel, the Navy routinely dumps overboard highly radioactive resins which are used as filters for the reactor coolant.
And while the U.S. Navy is reluctant to admit or confirm any serious problems with any of its 154 floating nuclear reactors, it should be noted that the Soviet Navy is just as reluctant to admit or confirm any serious problems with any of its floating nuclear reactors.
Investigative journalist David Kaplan called the rapid growth of naval nuclear reactors “a series of Three Mile Islands at sea waiting to happen.”
OCEANS Magazine, July, 1983, “When Incidents are Accidents: The Silent Saga of the Nuclear Navy,” by David Kaplan.