Global warming could be dangerous in a number of ways. One particular strange way is that by the end of the century it could expose the hazardous waste of a nuclear test base in Greenland if the melting of the ice that covers it continues.
The discovery has been revealed in a new study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters by a team of researchers from York University in Toronto. Climate change and its global warming effects that results in the melting of ice sheets will also bring forth another set of problems that were abandoned and forgotten. It can create environmental and political problems as it could complicate relations between the US, Denmark, and Greenland, which recently has become an autonomous territory.
At the height of the Cold War, the US signed a treaty with Denmark who had authority over Greenland, in order to build a base called Camp Century on the ice sheet of the island. For the public, the purpose of the base was scientific research such as drilling for ice cores, but it also functioned as a top-secret nuclear missiles testing site, codenamed Project Iceworm. Its true purpose was to determine if launch sites could be built close enough for missiles to reach the Soviet Union. The base was decommissioned in 1967, but except for its nuclear reactor, everything else was left behind thinking that it would forever be covered in ice and snow.
Currently, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at the alarming rate of almost 8,000 tons per second. This can lead to 280 billion tons of ice melting and calving off into the ocean every year. At this rate, the researchers think that the base will be completely exposed by the end of the century as the ice loss is greater than the annual increase in snow.
According to Liam Colgan, a climate scientist and the lead author of the study:
“Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world, and now climate change is modifying those sites.”
The scientists determined that Camp Century hosts around 9, 200 tons of was in the form of abandoned infrastructure, 20, 000 liters of waste fuel, 24 million liters of biological waste such as sewage, and radioactive coolant water from the reactors. The most dangerous elements of the base and its buried waste, are the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). They pose a significant threat to the local environment because they don’t break down naturally. When the ice covering the base melts, the PCBs may seep into the ocean, where it can build up in fish and other animals, and it has the potential to cause cancer in humans if ingested.
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