Greenland’s melting ice caps could expose US radioactive waste

23 August 2016

Radioactive waste buried at a former US military base in Greenland could find its way to the ocean as the icecaps melt, according to Dirk van As, a climate researcher from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS). The Camp Century base, established under the ice east of the Thule Air Base in 1959 by the US Army, used a mobile nuclear reactor as an energy source for the around 200 resident soldiers and researchers. When the operation, Project Iceworm, was abandoned in 1966, the US told the Danish government it would clean up the site, but a large amount of low-level radiation waste and toxic PCBs remained.

"It's not a question of if it will happen, but it's more a question of when," van As told Information newspaper. "This waste won't remain covered by the ice forever. If climate change continues, the waste will reach the surface of the ice and leak into the ocean."

Citing “experts”, the paper said cleaning up the waste would only be possible just before the waste is exposed by the melting ice - which is estimated to occur around 2090, but it is unclear who will pay for this. Denmark's official post-WWII policy dictates that no atomic weapons should be permitted on Danish territory. That, however, came into question in 1968 when an American B52 bomber carrying four nuclear bombs crashed near the Thule Air base while on a secret mission, sparking uproar in Denmark.

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