Scientists are warning the Greenland’s melting ice could release buried nuclear waste from a shuttered Cold War missile base Credit: AP
- Harriet Alexander, New York
5 August 2016 • 5:19pm
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.