Clear abandoned US military waste, Greenland urges Denmark

FILE PHOTO © NASA
Greenland has urged Denmark to clean up the abandoned US military installations on the Arctic island, including Camp Century under-ice nuclear missile project, saying that they pose a threat to the environment.

Thirty-three American military bases and radar stations were built on the world’s largest island under a 1951 deal between NATO allies Denmark and the US.

Greenland had no say in the decision due to being a Danish province at the time, only gaining greater autonomy from Copenhagen in 2009.

The US-Danish agreement does not specify the side responsible for the cleanup, but Greenland’s authorities say they have had enough of rusting American military constructions.

“Unless Denmark has entered other agreements with the United States about Camp Century, the responsibility for investigation and cleanup lies with Denmark alone,” Vittus Qujaukitsoq, Greenland's foreign minister, said.

Earlier this week, AP obtained a letter which Qujaukitsoq sent to his Danish counterpart, Kristian Jensen, asking about Copenhagen’s plans for the US facility that, according to an international study, contains “radioactivity, oil and PCB pollution.”

He also warned that Greenland would address “relevant international organizations” to help with the cleanup if Denmark refuses to act.

Camp Century was built in 1959-60 in the northwestern part of Greenland. Washington said that the site was designed to test sub-ice construction techniques, but it was actually planned to be used as a top secret launch facility for ballistic missiles that could reach the USSR.

The ambitious project was, however, scrapped in 1966 after the ice cap started crushing the construction.

When the Americans left, they only took the nuclear reactor that powered Camp Century with them.

According to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in August, an estimated 200,000 liters of diesel oil and sewage have been left on the site.

The scientists warned that ice cap melting may result in major pollution caused by Camp Century waste coming to the surface.

“When we looked at the climate simulations, they suggested that rather than perpetual snowfall, it seems that as early as 2090, the site could transition from net snowfall to net melt,” the paper’s co-author William Colgan, a climate scientist at York University in Toronto, said.

“Once the site transitions from net snowfall to net melt, it’s only a matter of time before the wastes melt out; it becomes irreversible,” Colgan told the American Geographical Union.

READ MORE: Danger: Radioactive Cold War stash & Greenland's melting ice-sheet

According to AP, Greenland’s authorities have already begun cleaning up US military facilities, but the island, with a population of just over 56,000, lacks the resources to complete the large-scale project.