memorandum by Mr Toshev, rapporteur
The origin of this report is the motion for a resolution
on military waste and the environment, tabled by Mr Ivan Ivanov
2. In order to gather background information for the report,
the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional
Affairs organised a hearing in Paris on 23 November 2009. At this
hearing, the committee heard a presentation by Lt Colonel Dr Nikolay
Nikolov from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence, who is an expert
on problems related to military waste.
In December 2009, a questionnaire was distributed to the member
states with the following questions:
- What kind and how much non-utilised military waste is
stored on the territory of your state?
- Is there any public information as to where military waste
(including radioactive, if any) is stored?
- If so, does it include disposal sites on the bed of water
basins or deep below ground level?
- Do you co-operate with other states or with international
institutions in order to solve the environmental problems raised
by military waste management?
- Is there any specific legislation concerning this issue?
4. Replies were received from 20 states (Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria,
Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, the
Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Serbia,
Slovak Republic, Slovenia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
5. Most of the replies about military waste disposal were not
very informative, which explains the lack of available information
on the issue.
6. Nine of those states that replied reported that they had legislation
on the issue. Five states reported that they were co-operating with
other states or institutions in solving the problems of military
waste. It is very disappointing that 27 states did not provide any
7. This lack of information made it impossible to make a comparative
study on the legislation of the Council of Europe member states
on this issue, although this had been the rapporteur’s initial intention.
8. A very precise reply, which was highly appreciated by the
rapporteur, was provided by Germany.
The committee authorised a visit of the rapporteur and the
secretary of the committee to NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Due
to transport complications, the meeting in NATO had to be held in
the absence of the rapporteur. The secretary of the committee nevertheless
met the following persons:
Henrik Dam, Head of JAIS (Joint Armaments and Industry Section,
Defence Investment Division);
- Mr Osman Tasman, Head of the Land Armaments Unit, JAIS;
- Lt Col Filip Martel, Vice-Chairman of CNAD (Conference
of National Armament Directors) Ammunition Safety Group – Subgroup
5 on Logistic Storage and Disposal;
- Ms Marie-Claire Mortier, secretary.
10. He was given the following information:
11. The topic of “military waste” is extremely vast. It would
be appropriate to focus on a single aspect, namely conventional
ammunition. This would leave aside, of course, nuclear and chemical
12. NATO itself has prepared a document on the disposal of conventional
ammunition. The paper reviews the best disposal techniques, the
“best practices”, with a view to identifying them and spreading
knowledge of them (the problems being similar everywhere, one should
avoid “reinventing the wheel”).
13. The geographical area covered by the Council of Europe roughly
coincides with that covered by NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
14. Upon learning that the rapporteur intended to make a study
visit to Ukraine, the interlocutors informed the secretary of the
committee that Ukraine had a true problem with “leftover ammunition”.
NATO supports Ukraine in dealing with this issue through NAMSA expertise
(NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, which has an office in Kyiv).
NAMSA is working on disposal contracts for both ammunition and weapons
(using only environmental friendly techniques).
1.1 The use of ammunition
15. Lead bullets should be prohibited because of the
lead pollution due to firing.
16. Depleted uranium bullets are to be considered as “conventional”
ammunition. There are discussions as to whether or not depleted
uranium bullets were the cause of soldiers’ sicknesses during the
17. Other discussions concern the cleaning up of battlefields.
18. Cluster ammunition is banned by the Oslo Convention on Cluster
1.2 The storage of
19. Stored ammunition represents a permanent and serious
threat to the environment; the question is not “if” it will blow
up but “when” it will blow up. That is why ammunition should not
be stored close to (or in) residential areas.
1.3 The disposal of
20. It is very expensive to dispose of ammunition, but,
if it is not properly disposed of, it will eventually blow up.
1.4 The transport of
21. For the transport of ammunition, civil regulations
are still in use (which is regrettable).
22. Among questions to be raised could be the following one: for
the destruction of conventional ammunition, is burning in the open
air still an acceptable solution? A risk analysis should be able
to give the answer.
Two documents would have been useful in the work on this report:
- STANAG 2510: “Waste management
for NATO military activities”;
- STANAG 2545: “NATO glossary on environmental protection”.
(STANAG = Standardisation Agreement)
documents could not be given to civilians; they could only obtained
by request from a national representation to NATO.
24. In this situation, it was difficult for the rapporteur to
prepare a very profound analysis of the situation. Despite his intention
that the report be based on information officially provided by member
states, a significant part of the sources for the preparation of
this report were publications in the media or reports by NGOs.
and manufacturing consequences
25. Warfare not only elicits large-scale casualties and
devastated landscapes, but it also leaves a wake of other serious
consequences, which may plague a country long after political problems
are resolved. The production of weapons used in war, their detonation
and the eventual storage of the hazardous materials involved must
be addressed. Many of the substances in military waste are still
active and could cause problems for the environment and human health.
26. Furthermore, only recently has evidence shown the long-term
effects of exposure to detonated materials, which have proven to
be very dangerous. Simply displacing stored waste, ignoring the
dangers of abandoned arsenals, or implementing standards on a country-by-country
basis will fail to adequately address these challenges. In the last
decades, about 10 incidents involving military waste were reported
– in Uzbekistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Russia, France, Ukraine, etc.
There have been victims, environmental damage and expenses to cover
the important problems caused, which have been serious.
27. Important quantities of weapons from the First and Second
World Wars and the Cold War are still stored by the military, but
competition in weapon production during the Cold War and rapid technological developments
have resulted in most of these weapons becoming obsolete.
3 Examples of data
collected during the preparation of the report
28. According to the data collected, there are around
2.5 million tonnes of military waste stored in Ukraine since the
Soviet era, in about 6 000 storage sites. Part of this military
waste is stored without any particular precautionary measures.
29. Special attention should be paid to the problem of burial
of radioactive waste.
30. There is a state programme on the utilisation of non-necessary
armaments in Ukraine, which covers the period from 2006 to 2017,
and there are several regulations concerning practical proceedings
for the utilisation and handling of armaments. Ukraine needs help
to resolve the problems it has with military waste.
31. Unfortunately, the rapporteur was not able to visit Ukraine
to study the situation in more depth. Our data provides information
about a series of explosions and incidents between 2004 and 2006
in the Novobohdanivka arsenal. There are reasons to believe that
the situation of military waste management and utilisation in Ukraine
remains serious and that not much progress has been achieved in
the meantime. One of the reasons for this complicated situation
is the lack of financial resources to address this problem.
In Moldova, at the Cobasna station, on the territory of Transnistria,
around 20 000 tonnes of arms and ammunition are stored. No more
data was available about this case.Note
33. An OSCE report of 2007 indicates that in Belarus the utilisation
of military waste has caused serious environmental problems, including
the need for local authorities to clean up a territory of around
300 000 hectares, the sites of former military bases.
According to a paper by Peter Szyszlo,Note
Yablokov Commission has estimated that, after 1965, the Soviet Union
dumped a total of 2.5 million curies of contained and discharged
radioactive waste into the ocean – including 16 nuclear submarine
and nuclear ice-breaker reactors – in the gulfs near Novaja Zemlja. The
same paper stated that between 1964 and 1991, between 11 000 and
17 000 containers of liquid and solid radioactive waste were dumped
in the same region. Some of the containers were punctured to facilitate
sinking. The areas where this highly dangerous disposal method was
used during the Soviet times, causing a risk of radioactive pollution,
are, according to this paper, the Barents and Kara seas and the
area surrounding Novaja Zemlja. This “nuclear graveyard”, says Peter
Szyszlo, was “not only for radioactive waste but also for reactors, decommissioned
nuclear-powered vessels and more recently dismantled nuclear weapons”.
35. The rapporteur would like to connect this information with
the information about the situation in the Arctic region, provided
by the Norwegian authorities during the hearing organised by the
Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities
in Tromsø in 1999.
36. The rapporteur considers that it would be of great importance
and most welcome if the Russian Federation would accept to co-operate
with the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations in
solving this problem, which is obviously not only a national one.
37. In the Russian Federation there are currently 27 legal texts
regulating the utilisation of military waste, but not a single law
on this issue has been adopted. There is a federal programme on
the utilisation of armaments and military techniques, which was
adopted in 2005 and is in force until the end of 2010. The goal
of the programme is to decrease expenditure for storing unnecessary
armaments by 70%. In the Russian Federation, there is also a federal
law on military technical co-operation with other states, which
includes the issue of the utilisation of armaments and military
38. There was no other information at the disposal of the rapporteur
about the commitments of the Russian Federation to the solution
of the problems raised by old military waste disposal sites and
especially about waste dumped in water basins.
39. In the British newspaper the Independent
on Sunday of 22 June 2008, an article by Jonathan Owen entitled
“Soldiers dumped munitions with household waste”, reported on about
20 incidents of the dumping of military waste in Great Britain,
calling it a “dangerous and highly unprofessional military habit”,
subject to sanctions by the Health and Safety Executive and the
Environmental Agency. The British House of Commons held a debate
on military radioactive waste on 20 May 2008, where this particular
issue was addressed.
40. Bulgaria has a national programme, adopted in 2004, for the
utilisation and destruction of surplus ammunition on its territory.
There are also four main sections of legislation that cover the
issue of utilisation.
41. In 2003, there were 59 000 tonnes of surplus ammunition in
Bulgaria. After the reform of the army, which in 2005 started to
be transformed into a professional army, this quantity increased
to 67 000 tonnes. In Bulgaria, there is currently a plan on military
waste management, aimed at being fully implemented by 2015.
42. On 3 July 2008, near Sofia, there was a big explosion of surplus
ammunition, which caused damage, but fortunately there were no victims.
43. Similar explosions of surplus ammunition took place on 15
March 2008 in the village of Gerdech, near Tirana in Albania, on
17 July 2008 in the missile-artillery warehouses near the town of
Kagan in Uzbekistan, on 4 September 2009 in the factory Parvi Partizan
near the town of Uzjice in Serbia, on 13 November 2009 in the Arsenal
31 warehouses near the town of Ulianovsk in the Russian Federation,
4 Environmental and
health effects of producing weapons
44. Environmental pollution resulting from the manufacturing
of weapons and warfare materials is undoubtedly a global issue with
which many countries are challenged. Whether by air, water, or soil contamination,
the environmental problems caused by weapon production should be
the subject of serious consideration, even though the consequences
are not as immediately evident as the consequences of actual warfare.
These problems are therefore often pushed aside as other seemingly
more urgent problems are pushed to the forefront of the environmental
45. The production of nuclear weapons releases carcinogenic and
mutagenic materials such as plutonium, uranium, strontium, caesium,
benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury and cyanide.
These chemicals remain hazardous for thousands, some for tens of
thousands, of years. Using the current methods of disposal, these
materials are exposed to drinking water, groundwater and soil. Currently,
the specific contaminant that has received most attention is perchlorate.
Produced at a rate of several million pounds per annum, this chemical
is a primary ingredient in propellant and has been used for decades
for solid rocket propellant and the manufacturing of rockets and
missiles. Perchlorate is easily dissolved and transported in water
and has thus been found in drinking water and food products. This
compound has been found to affect the thyroid gland and cause developmental
46. Perhaps an even greater oversight in environmental
discussions are the long-term effects of hazardous materials, which
remain in war-torn countries long after troops have left. These
environmental consequences may often be the most difficult to detect
if no special attention is paid to this issue. Since the most evidently hazardous
chemicals have only been a product of modern warfare, there are
few case studies that can provide reliable research on this issue.
6 Hazardous military
47. For certain areas of eastern Europe, post-war environmental
implications encompass several ecological sectors and continue to
pose a grave threat to the water supply, air quality, and safety
of the people who live there. Due to the previous Soviet occupation,
these countries have been left with abandoned military bases, undetected
weapons, hazardous waste and radioactive residue. Furthermore, these
problems have been exacerbated by lax regulation. Today, Moldova
alone faces the problem that it has to deal with 8 000 tonnes of
toxic residues that are stored illegally and in a disorganised manner,
leading, inter alia, to water contamination.
According to the figures at our disposal, there are about 20 000
tonnes of arms and munitions, all stored in Transnistria, that are
impossible to transport. An explosion of these munitions would undoubtedly lead
to a humanitarian disaster. In Ukraine, 2.5 million tonnes of arms,
munitions and military waste are lying unclaimed on a number of
sites. Four of these sites include also buried radioactive residues.
Moreover, 39% of used water is contaminated and 25% of it returns
into the environment. Belarus is faced with the need to get rid
of armaments left by the Soviet military, which are both radioactive
and toxic and the authorities must clean up oil products and electromagnetic
radiation from a total area of 300 000 hectares of military sites.
7 Treatment and storage
of military radioactive waste
48. Many previous recommendations for treating these
environmental threats have failed to consider the implications of
storing large-scale waste. The storing process in itself may exacerbate
many environmental problems and can be costly and ineffective.
49. It is not easy to gather information on military waste in
general, and on radioactive military waste in particular.
50. For the United States, Russia and several other nations, the
option of simply exporting hazardous waste has become appealing.
In Russia’s case, the prospect of future revenues from importing
waste have outweighed any health and safety considerations for the
Russian people. The country plans to import 20 billion tonnes of
radioactive waste, store it for a number of years, and then “reprocess
it” – a practice as yet only vaguely defined. Russia has propagated
this plan by referring to waste as a valuable raw material because
it is possible to use extracted plutonium to power a special kind
of nuclear reactor. Already, there is a growing problem of extensive
dumping in the Russian Arctic of military waste from reactors, which
has yet to be properly addressed. Many Third World countries are
considering importing waste as a source of revenue; yet simply displacing
waste fails to address the problem at a global level. When determining
a storage method, one must consider the technical implications of
finding safe storage and disposal sites, as well as the financial
issues of covering the cost of security, decommissioning, decontamination
and cleaning up.
8 Military waste
51. Military waste materials that are not destroyed or
recycled are stored in ground or underground depositories or on
the bed of seas or oceans.
In a special category of hazardous military waste are weapons
dumped on the seabed or the ocean floor. Most of this waste is still
chemically active and could cause not only serious environmental
problems, but also economic problems. This particular issue has
already been dealt with by the Assembly in its report on chemical munitions
dumped in the Baltic Sea (Doc.
9 Lifting confidentiality
53. Member states should provide accurate information
about the actual quantities and types of military waste in order
to have a real assessment of the problem. This information cannot
be treated as confidential. It is obvious that these materials are
no longer needed by states. Freedom of access to any information concerning
the environment should also be guaranteed.
54. Measures for environmental monitoring of the depositories
of military waste should be introduced immediately, where it is
not already done by the respective state authorities.
55. The problem of military waste cannot be treated at
national level only; it represents a common European problem. Therefore,
a common policy and methodology to tackle this issue should be developed.
56. The opportunities for recycling a part of this military waste
should also be considered (especially for metals), due to the shortage
of resources and need for sustainable development.
57. There is a need for a new international or European body and
financial instrument to deal with the issue, to co-ordinate the
efforts of member states and to foster co-operation among neighbouring
countries on the utilisation of military waste, and to establish
an environmentally safe control mechanism. It would also be useful if
this body could co-operate with the environmental branch of NATO
and other military alliances in order to harmonise policies and
methodologies on the management of military waste.