NIRS and WISE both celebrate their 25th anniversaries this year. This is the eleventh article in a series, "25 years ago", comparing anti-nuclear news "then" and "now", to mark our first quarter-century of anti-nuclear campaigning.
In issue 2 of WISE Bulletin we wrote about uranium reserves in Greenland: "Recent discoveries of uranium in Greenland have whetted appetites in Brussels. Proven reserves at Kvanefjeld (east of Frederikshaab) are now 27,000 tons, estimated reserves 16,000 tons". (WISE Bulletin, July 1978)
Greenland, since 1721 governed by Denmark, got autonomy for domestic issues in 1979. Foreign issues, security, financial and justice are still governed from Denmark. (NRC [NL], 10 December 2002)
The U.S. Army has a military base in Thule in the north of Greenland. Without consultation of Greenland'
s population, the government of Denmark agreed in 1952 to host the U.S. military base. On 21 January 1968, a B-52 bomber carrying thermonuclear weapons crashed near the base. The conventional high explosives in the four bombs exploded, scattering radioactive debris. The crash was reason to cancel the agreement on the storage of nuclear weapons at Thule. However, in 1995 it became clear that the government of Denmark had renewed the agreement, in disagreement with the population of Greenland. (Fringe [NL], June 2001; NRC [NL], 10 December 2002)
Several people who helped to clean up the crash site got radioactively contaminated. In 2000, former Danish workers of the military base said that they found evidence that one of the four bombs was at the sea bottom near Thule, at 250 meters depth. An old movie from 1968, taken from a submarine, would show a subject which could be one of the bombs. (Arctica [NL], autumn 2000)
In 1997, the U.S. RAND "think tank" called the Thule military base a perfect location for the storage of radioactive waste, such as warheads from nuclear missiles and submarine reactors. The study was made on request of the U.S. Department of Energy. According to RAND, Greenland could host nuclear weapons materials and fuel from submarines from both the U.S. and Russia. RAND also looked at areas in Iceland, Scandinavia and Antarctica. (Innu Informatiekrant [NL], winter 1997/1998)
The exploration activities at the Kvanefjeld are took place between 1955 and 1984. In south Greenland, exploration activities were conducted between 1979 and 1986 and resulted in 60,000 tons of "speculative resources". Despite the research on deposits, no mining has taken place. The ore at Kvane fjeld is rather poor and the uranium difficult to extract, the viability of exploiting depends on high uranium prices. It is not expected that with current uranium prices, Greenland will ever start uranium mining. (Nuclear Europe, January 1984; Uranium 1995: resources, production and demand, OECD/NEA, 1996; www.wise-uranium.org)