Radioactive waste are waste that contains elements that emit hazardous materials. They are either released into the ocean through accidents, leakage or nuclear facility. There have been many cases where radioactive waste are leaked into the ocean due to natural disasters. Some are even put into containers and dumped into the ocean.
So do these waste cause harm to the ocean? They do and you can find out in these 17 Effects of Radioactive Waste in Ocean. So many marine creatures and environment are at risk from the radioactive waste.
1. Affect Marine Plants
Marine plants carry out the photosynthesis process that is needed for the ocean’s nutrients. They also serve as food for the marine animals. However, radioactive waste can kill them off. Seaweed or plankton can become toxic due to the waste. Thus, their number in the ocean can greatly reduce.
2. Contaminate Fish
Radioactive waste will contaminate fish too through the food they eat. The toxic elements will penetrate their body tissues. As a result, the contaminated fish swim around the ocean. The fishermen who unknowingly catch the toxic fish will end up providing unsafe fish for people to eat.
3. Harm Vulnerable Marine Creatures
Some vulnerable marine creatures include porpoises and also seals. Even a specific kind of porpoise is endangered which is the Vaquita. When radioactive waste is introduced into the ocean, the vulnerable animals will receive the most devastating impacts. Apparently, a dangerous radioactive element called plutonium has been found in many creatures of the Irish Sea. Read more Smallest Marine Mammals in the World
4. Last for a Long Time
One of the most concerning things about radioactive waste is how long they last in the ocean. They are not the kind of waste that people or nature can get rid of in an instant. Radiation can last for more than a century. Their dangerous effect will linger for a long time. It’s a hazardous condition for every living thing in the ocean.
5. Cause Cancer or Tumor
The hazardous waste will have high potential in causing cancer to marine animals. The Fukushima disaster leaked radioactive elements into the ocean and the effect can be seen in many Alaskan fish. Reportedly many fishermen caught fish with abnormal growth inside their mouths. Even the White shark experiences tumor too.
6. Oxygen Depletion
Oxygen depletion is a serious case when it comes to the ocean. Without it, many mammals in the ocean will die. Radioactive waste disturb the way oxygen gets absorbed into the ocean water. As the waste continues to spread out, they increase the chance of killing more marine animals and plants.
7. Population Decrease
Every now and then, a population decrease in a marine species is normal. Leaving them alone will increase the chance of recovery. But, it’s harder to control when it comes to radioactive waste as they can be unpredictable. For those without a huge population, they are at high risk of becoming endangered.
8. Destruction of Habitat
Since radioactive waste emit radiation for a very long time, the space that it comes in contact with will not be habitable. Marine plants and animals will definitely lose their habitat. This destruction of habitat will only cause chaos in within the marine ecosystem. Habitat is important for marine creatures since it provides food, shelter and suitable condition for growth.
9. Spread into Other Oceans
Ocean currents can actually spread the radioactive waste into other ocean parts that are actually unharmed. As more radiation is spread out, more parts of the ocean will become toxic. The intensity might vary but it doesn’t exclude the fact that everything will be affected.
Some things might die out immediately while others will rot and degrade over time. All in all, it all leads to harm as well as death. Read more about Impact of Ocean Currents
10. Turn Sediment Toxic
Most marine creatures need the sediment in the ocean. The sediment that they use are often located in the ocean floor. As far as radiation goes, the sediment can be affected by the radioactive waste too. Unknowing marine fish or sea snails who take shelter in the sediment will come into contact with hazardous particles. Read more about Ocean Sediments
11. Disrupt Food Web
The food web in the marine ecosystem is already well established naturally. As a lot of species get affected by the radiation, the food web will be disturbed. Both predators and producers might have to pay for the price. Producers won’t be able to flourish while predators will starve due to the lack of food they can eat.
12. Mutations in Marine Creatures
Although radioactive waste might become diluted with the vast ocean water, they will still create a negative impact on the marine creatures. The radiation will have a high chance of altering their genes. Other than that, there have reports where their reproduction pattern is altered.
13. Reduce Life Expectancy
The most vulnerable creatures to the radioactive waste would be those with extremely soft body. They include sea worms, anemones, fish and jellyfish. They don’t have any hard shell to protect their bodies. The radiation will penetrate them easier and reduce their life expectancy.
14. Disrupting Photosynthesis
Radioactive waste can also disturb the whole process of photosynthesis. The sun and oxygen are needed for photosynthesis but the ocean’s ability to let them pass through is decreased. The radioactive elements that are already merged with the ocean water will harm those that carry out photosynthesis. They make it hard for the process to even be completed.
Know more: Importance of Oxygen in the Ocean
15. Burn Marine Life
Apparently, marine creatures can be burned by the radioactive. Marine creatures such as fish are particularly in danger to that kind of harmful element. The burning sensation will feel like the fish are swimming in through fire, not water.
16. Cause Diseases in Vertebrates
Vertebrates will be more susceptible to all kinds of diseases. There are studies that show radioactive element can weaken the immune system of vertebrates. So sharks, sea turtles and whales can all face more diseases when exposed to radiation.
Extinction could happen if marine plants and animals are continuously exposed to radiation. It doesn’t take a year or two for the radioactive elements to disappear. Lack of suitable habitat, lack of food and harmful elements can greatly cause many species to die out.
As resilient the ocean can be, a radioactive waste will cause immense damage. The negative impacts can be observed through generations as they last for many years.