Climate change will have drastic effects on the Arctic environment, opening new opportunities for Arctic access regarding shipping, fishing, tourism, and offshore resources. As the importance of the Arctic grows, conflict among interested nation states and subsequent security concerns are likely to arise. Diplomacy on an international scale will be needed to resolve the Arctic’s transboundary issues and international cooperation will be necessary to ensure the protection of the Arctic ecosystem and the sustainable and responsible development of Arctic resources. Strategies and frameworks for cooperation should be developed now to reduce or prevent potential international discord.
In 1996, the sustainability and security challenges posed by Russia’s defense-related nuclear waste in the Arctic defied unilateral solution and the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) was established. AMEC’s goal was not only to mitigate the impact of radioactive waste on the fragile Arctic environment, but also to foster interaction and confidence between the militaries of the AMEC member states. This research examines the transboundary issues, significance, and environmental impacts of radioactive waste on the Arctic, as well as, the organization and initiation of projects to address these issues under AMEC. By analyzing AMEC’s efforts, successes, and failures to date, lessons in international cooperation can be derived and the major barriers to successful cooperation can be characterized. A system involving increased international cooperation based on the lessons of AMEC is required if the sustainability and security of the Arctic is to be maintained.