Climate change problems are stacking up with each passing day, and today isn’t a good day either. A new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters revealed that we might be on the brink of suffering from toxic nuclear seepage in our oceans.
How did this happen?
During the Cold War, US defence strategy revolved around suffocating and surrounding USSR from all sides. For that, they planned to place the nuclear weapons within a few minutes’ striking distance of the Soviet cities and military bases.
One of these projects entailed embedding ballistic missiles within Greenland’s ice sheet. The project began in 1959, and by 1962 the Army Corps of Engineers had set up a full-time network of tunnels underneath Greenland’s frozen surface, called Project Iceworm. The plan was to establish a ‘subsurface railway’ servicing 600 buried ballistic missiles. 85 to 200 soldiers lived in the Arctic base at one time, and a nuclear reactor was used to power the base.
The mission’s exploits were not very great, but what Uncle Sam left behind is the cause of concern. When the army abandoned the camp in 1967, a lot of radioactive waste was left behind beneath the ice. It was wrongly assumed that the barren northwestern Greenland would keep the waste frozen forever, so the army didn’t bother to clean up their mess. How “un-American”!
But as climate change sped up, so did the pace of Arctic melting. The paper published reveals that that meltwater around Camp Century exceeds the annual freeze, which leads to the conclusion that soon enough all that nuclear waste will end up exposed. They estimate that this catastrophe can happen within 88 years, or even less at the rate of current ice melting.
Researcher James White from the University of Colorado said in a press release, “The question is whether it’s going to come out in hundreds of years, in thousands of years, or in tens of thousands of years. This stuff was going to come out anyway, but what climate change did was press the gas pedal to the floor and say, ‘it’s going to come out a lot faster than you thought’.”
Along with the nuclear material, other inventories like building materials, oil, and years’ worth of sewage pose a significant environmental hazard. And as the world anxiously observes the impending doom coming their way, any country from the US or Denmark, which controls Greenland, are yet to take responsibility for handling the problem.
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