Ok, here’s a pretty weird story. The US started, then abandoned a top-secret military base under the ice of Greenland, called Camp Century aka Project Iceworm. The original goal was to have thousands of miles of underground tunnels and rail, and 600 nuclear missiles ready to be deployed against Moscow if they ever attempted to hack our elections. Ok, not that last part. But the tunnels, and nuclear weapons, that was real. The US didn’t even bother to ask the Danish government if it was ok with them to have nuclear weapons stored here, but in the end it didn’t matter because the ice turned out to be too unstable and the project was cancelled.
The Pentagon did what it often has done, left behind all the waste and garbage, even though much of it is toxic. Fast forward a few decades, and factor in climate change, and we have a real problem as Sarah Laskow of Wired writes:
Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the U.S. military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.
In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the U.S. to stage weapons, ready to attack the U.S.S.R. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.
By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.
Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.
(click here to continue reading America’s Secret Ice Base Won’t Stay Frozen Forever | WIRED.)