Global Warming Will Expose Nuclear Waste In Greenland

The Camp Century Base worked as a researc center for the United States. This base also conducted a top secret nuclear operation known as "Project Iceworm" - Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Greenland's melting rate has tripled in recent years thanks to global warming; and thus the ice is melting at a faster rate than snow is falling. Besides the obvious threat of sea level rise this encompasses, new concerns of an equally insidious problem have arised.
During the Cold War era, the United States had a military base in Greenland. The Camp Century based worked as a research center for the US military, who regularly conducted experiments such as drilling into the ice core. However, on the background, Camp Century was also the home of a nuclear operation known as "Project Iceworm".
After the war ended, the US government decomissioned the Camp Century base; but almost everything inside it was left intact. At the time, they thought it would snow forever in the area and thus, the base would remain under a thick layer of ice. The truth proved to be much different.
If the Greenland ice continues melting at this rate, we could have tonnes of nuclear waste, toxic coolants and fuel making their way into the ocean before the end of the year.


Nuclear waste buried underneath the ice in Greenland in a Cold War-era bunker is at risk of being exposed, scientists fear, due to global warming.

Radioactive coolant, thousands of gallons of sewage and diesel fuel, and tons of PCBs – a chemical coolant, banned in 1979 - were abandoned at the US Camp Century base when it was decommissioned in 1967.

The Americans left the base nearly fully intact, under the assumption that it would be buried forever under accumulated snowfall.

The base was officially used as a scientific centre, designed to carry out experiments such as drilling into the ice core. But it also served as a top-secret nuclear missile testing site, under a programme named Project Iceworm, which was to see if launch sites could be built close enough for missiles to reach the Soviet Union.

When it was mothballed, the nuclear waste was buried in a series of tunnels 50 feet underground. Snow has since fallen on top.

But a new, peer-reviewed study published on Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, warns that the ice is melting faster than snow is falling on top, to replenish it. And climate change could see the material released into the oceans by the end of the century.

“Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world,” said Liam Colgan, a climate scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, and lead author of the study. “And now climate change is modifying those sites.

“When it reached end of life, the army just closed the doors on it and left everything in place,” he told The Toronto Star.

“They did take out the nuclear reaction vessel, but they left everything else in place. Buildings, trucks, supplies, waste, all of it. They thought it would snow forever.

He said that the ice sheet that sits on Greenland is now melting at a rate of 8,000 tons per second.

Mike MacFerrin, a study co-author, and researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, said that the waste would then seep into the ocean, threatening the ecosystems of the fish and animals that the people who live in the communities there depend on.

Resolving the matter also presents a political challenge.

The US built the base, with permission from Denmark – although they did not approve the missile testing. Greenland is now a self-governing territory.

“Nato allies really need to demonstrate that they have good closure plans to deal with their legacies of abandoned bases,” said Mr Colgan.

“We’re adding further motivation for more comprehensive discussion of what to do with these abandoned bases in Greenland.”

The Importance of Second Chances
Making Caribbean Transport Climate-Resilient