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Greenland offers to store old nuclear weapons

A U.S. Air Force base, 200 kilometres from Grise Fiord, is suggested as possible location for scrapped nuclear warheads



Greenland’s prime minister is reported to have offered his territory as a disposal site for dismantled Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads.

According to Reuters news agency, a Danish newspaper quoted Lars Emil Johansen last week as supporting a proposal to establish a secure storage site in northern Greenland for weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

The idea for the storage site comes from a study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Rand Institute, a private American strategic think-tank.

In it, the authors argue that the quickest way to solve the world’s current oversupply of nuclear weapons is to transport them to a remote facility for burial, or for use as a future source of fuel in nuclear energy programs.

“A storage site should be considered a strategic material prison, where the contents are dangerous, escape is physically prevented and release subject to considered procedures,” the study’s authors write.

Greenland, in fact, is only one of several potential locations for a nuclear weapons depot, according to the Strategic Material Accelerated Removal Talks (SMART) proposal. Canada, too is mentioned.

Plutonium sent to Canada

“Another option is a 30-year program of burning plutonium in CANDU reactors in Canada. SMART could seamlessly be integrated with this option if U.S. and Russian excess material were stored in Canada,” the report continues.

The Rand paper, written in 1996, notes that Greenland has experienced economic difficulties since the closing of an important lead and zinc mine in the late 1980s, and that “the additional employment and income resulting from nuclear storage facilities …could be a significant incentive for the acceptance of such facilities.”

Qaanaq contaminated by accident

The nuclear warheads could be stored 200 kilometres from Grise Fiord at Qaanaq, (Thule), site of a major U.S. military base, the authors suggest. There they would be guarded by a multinational security force.

Thule housed nuclear-armed U.S. bombers during the 1960s and was the site of an accident that resulted in radioactive contamination of the area in 1968.

Prime Minister Johansen was quoted as saying Greenland would like to contribute to world peace.

During World War II, when Denmark was under German occupation, the U.S. government took over Greenland as a protectorate. Denmark turned down a U.S. offer to buy Greenland in 1946.

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