Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun

Centennial episode 4: Toxic City Under the Ice

March 18, 2019

In 1959, the United States built an unusual military base under the surface of the Greenland ice Sheet. Camp Century was a hub for scientific research, but it also doubled as a top-secret site for testing the feasibility of deploying nuclear missiles from the Arctic. When Camp Century was decommissioned in 1967, its infrastructure and waste were abandoned under the assumption they would be forever entombed beneath the colossal sheet of ice.

But climate change has warmed the Arctic more than any other region on Earth, and parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet are melting faster than snow can accumulate. What will happen in the coming decades if the melting ice exposes the biological, chemical, and radioactive waste left behind at Camp Century?

In this episode, University of Colorado Boulder glaciologist Mike MacFerrin recounts Camp Century’s intriguing history and its role in the Cold War. He discusses the potential hazard Camp Century’s waste poses to the environment and surrounding communities and examines what, if anything, should be done about it now.