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"For obvious reasons of morale, these tunnels are not near those in which the men's dormitories are situated."
May 13, 2010 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Project Iceworm was part of an investigation into the feasibility of storing nuclear missiles under Greenland's ice sheet, in the event that the Cold War turned Hot. In 1960 the US Air Force took it upon themselves to bury a city, called "Camp Century" in the ice sheet, and see how life went there. There's an excellent documentary (parts 2, 3, 4) on YouTube about its construction and installation of various facilities, including the first portable modular nuclear power plant.

In 1957, the Danish government declared Denmark (and its territories, like Greenland) Nuclear-free zones, presumably to try to protect themselves in the event of nuclear hostilities between the NATO powers and the USSR. Camp Century was not the last violation of this policy by the United States. In the 1990s, the Danish government launched an investigation into the 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash, and discovered that the US had stockpiled nuclear weapons at Thule (the resulting scandal was called "Thulegate"). The crash also triggered the end of Operation Chrome Dome, an ongoing alert/readiness mission due to the release of nuclear materials after the crash. Only 85% of the Uranium and 94% of the secondary materials (like Plutonium and Tritium) were recovered, causing Time to call the incident one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

PS: If you're in Syracuse, NY, you might want to check out Box 19 and 20 of Alco's records to get some original documentation on the remarkable PM-2A reactor that powered Camp Century.
posted by Xoder (16 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well we couldn't have a mine shaft gap now could we?
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's fascinating. Camp Century is like a cross between ICEHOTEL and the Magic Kingdom Utilidors.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2010


Oh, sure, get all over the USA for it's hidden bases under massive ice sheets, but not one word condemning the secret Nazi bases in the Arctic and elsewhere? This smacks of a cover up....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]



...but not one word condemning the secret Nazi bases in the Arctic and elsewhere? This smacks of a cover up....
posted by lodurr at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2010


So this place... it is still there?

And our government is strapped for cash?

EVERYONE MEET ME IN MEFI PROJECTS IN FIVE
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 9:39 AM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


*reads wiki*

Ok... so it may have been destroyed by shifting ice.

Nothing crowdsourcing can't solve!
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2010


Sometimes (well, fairly often) I see something here that makes me wonder "Why have I never heard of this?"

This is one of those times.
posted by DMan at 9:43 AM on May 13, 2010


I had an uncle who was killed in a plane crash at Thule in 1968, so I did a double-take on this for a minute. But he was on a C-130, flying for what sounded like the CIA's pet cargo company. Still, there was apparently some kind of cover-up regarding the cargo. (and possibly regarding him, since he'd previously been a mechanic for a certain U2.)
posted by lodurr at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the Wikipedia article mentions that the site could hold 200 people, but it doesn't mention the ratio of men to women.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:00 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't want to put this in the post itself, but I'd personally love seeing some of those documents held at Syracuse University, so if you can get to them, try to get some scans up on the web somewhere, please?
posted by Xoder at 10:11 AM on May 13, 2010


Per here it looks like the entire population of the Greenland was less than 40,000 at the time; the rough U.S. equivalent would be if everyone in Nebraska or Idaho went to live underground en masse.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2010


Wait, they abandoned the site because the ice turned out to be unstable and moving a lot, and they'd dumped the reactor waste in the ice? Oh, good move.
posted by hank at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2010


hank, where are you getting the information about the reactor waste? The material lost percentages I gave referred to the 1968 bomber crash. I didn't see anything that referred to what was done with the PM-2A waste, though I'd be interested to know.
posted by Xoder at 12:22 PM on May 13, 2010


What's the going rateon a good supervillian lair these days I have .....plans.
posted by The Whelk at 4:01 PM on May 13, 2010


In 1957, the Danish government declared Denmark (and its territories, like Greenland) Nuclear-free zones, presumably to try to protect themselves in the event of nuclear hostilities between the NATO powers and the USSR

Doubtful. I would think it would be similar to the reasons why New Zealand later also declared itself a nuclear free zone - a moral opposition to nuclear weaponry that transcends the cost of the (severe) penalties dealt out by the USA to allies that dared to not toe their line. There was still enough non-nuclear NATO military hardware parked in these countries that if nukes started flying around, there was no reason to think they couldn't be a target, so the policy didn't protect, but it did take a large toll, especially militarily, as the US did everything in its power (legally and illegally) to beat down the policy.

It's like how you can't advocate emissions reductions if you're not prepared to take it on nose yourself and cut your own contribution. If no-one is prepared to actually walk the walk, it's all just hot air and hypocrites. If you believe something is deeply wrong and needs to change, you start with the man in the mirror.

In those days, opposition to nuclear weapons was seen by many in NATO as being either a traitor secretly working for the USSR, or at best, a useful-idiot serving the purposes of the USSR and undermining NATO. You were an enemy in the eyes of your only allies. It was not an easy path to take.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


-harlequin-, thanks for pointing out that not all actions by governments are cynical. the fact that so many are makes it more important for us to call attention to it when one seems to be authentic.
posted by lodurr at 5:43 AM on May 14, 2010


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