TU Seminar Focuses on World Arms Control and Environment

Friday, December 10th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A University of Tulsa seminar this week may play an important role in world arms control and environmental policy. The conference addressed a new issue resulting from progress in disarmament: what to do with the weapons of destruction.

The Persian Gulf crisis was the last time most Americans saw the environmental effects of war. Scorched earth, suspected chemical weapons, water and soil damage. As progress is made towards arms control, most of us may feel safer. But what becomes of thousands of nuclear warheads, and other weapons that must be destroyed? "You know if you've got nuclear weapons, you don't push them away into your top drawer,” said University of Tulsa law professor Lakshman Guruswamy. “If you've got biological weapons, you can't bury them in your back yard. You've got to dispose of them, and that presents a huge environmental problem."

Guruswamy believes a seminar in Tulsa will help answer that problem. Experts from the Pentagon, United Nations, Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies are meeting to plan global policy on the environmental impact of disarmament. Guruswamy offered one example. The START Treaty which reduced U.S and Soviet nuclear warheads by half. The Russians didn't know what to do with nuclear reactors that powered their subs, so they dumped them into the Arctic Ocean. "You know, you might think that's far away, but the Arctic is in many ways a sensor,” he explained. “It's kind of critical to the oceans of the world. And a lot of fish, a lot of wildlife are found there.”

Undersecretary of Defense Gary Vest says the U-S is working to help other countries be more sensitive to the environment. Vest says the U-S, Russia and Norway recently joined to solve the radioactive waste problem in the Artic Ocean. "The consortium took delivery of the first cask - a container to safely store and transport damaged fuel from Russian submarines,” he said.

Environmentalists say there's also cause for concern about early weapons testing in remote areas no longer so remote. "These biological agents will find a niche in the environment and could in fact spread further than the areas they were tested in,” explained the E-P-A’s Eileen Choffnes.

Guruswamy believes the Tulsa conference will soon be known for shaping global policy to protect the environment as further steps are taken to preserve world peace.