Greenland calls for clean-up of toxic U.S. Cold War bases

By Alister Doyle, Reuters - October 18, 2016

COPENHAGEN — Greenland’s government urged the United States and Denmark on Monday to clean up 30 rusting Cold War-era U.S. military installations there, saying it was losing patience over risks of radioactive and chemical waste.

The island, which has wide powers of self-rule within Denmark, said Copenhagen had a responsibility for the abandoned U.S. military locations on its territory.

“In Greenland, there are more than 30 abandoned American military installations where the environmental and health implications of abandoned waste have not been established,” its government said in a statement.

“Having waited in many cases more than 70 years for the polluter to take care of cleaning up or paying for such operations, Greenland is losing patience with changing Danish governments’ vague responses,” it said.

A resolution by Greenland’s parliament, due to be adopted next month, would instruct the government to ensure that “the U.S. and Denmark, without further delay, ensure clean-up of the more than 30 different U.S. military installations,” it said

In August, a scientific study said global warming might in future decades unlock radioactive waste stored at Camp Century, an abandoned military camp built in 1959 deep under Greenland’s ice sheet.

The study said any clean-up would be extremely expensive now and recommended delaying the work until thawing caused by climate change reached the point where it almost exposed the waste, which includes toxic chemicals, fuel and sewage.

Greenland’s government said radiation risks at Camp Century, from coolants for a nuclear generator used to produce power, seemed low compared to those from debris left by the far better documented crash in 1968 of a B-52 bomber carrying hydrogen bombs off north Greenland.

The United States now operates Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, including an early warning system to detect inter-continental missiles launched against North America. It has sharply scaled back its presence since the Cold War ended in 1990.

Asked for comment, the Danish Foreign Ministry reiterated a statement from August that it was taking the problems seriously.

“The government will look into the possibility of expanding existing climate monitoring to the area surrounding Camp Century,” it said. That could help track how fast the ice is receding and when Camp Century risks becoming exposed.