Nuclear Powered Greenland Shark Lives 430 Years After Exposure to US Radioactive Waste
A secret buried under the Greenland ice sheet could satisfy man's eternal quest for immortality.
January 14, 2017
A secret buried under the Greenland ice sheet could satisfy man's eternal quest for immortality. Like so many of science's great discovery (photography, alcohol, electricity, viagra), the discovery came about completely by accident.
During the Cold War, the U.S. military realized that Greenland presented the shortest route between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. So in April 1951, the U.S. and Denmark agreed to defend Greenland, a Danish territory, from Soviet attack, and the U.S. built several air bases in Greenland. One, thule, operates to this day just above the Arctic circle.
In 1959, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Camp Century 200 kilometers (125 miles) inland from the Greenland coast. Encased completely in Greenland's ice sheet, Camp Century was described as a "city under the ice."
Although the camp was built with Denmark's approval, the site's nuclear reactor was kept secret from the Danish government. Several years after the camp became operational, the Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to fund "Project Iceworm. The camp was decommissioned, it's missles were removed. The Army Corps of Engineers removed the nuclear reaction chamber but left the camp's infrastructure and all other waste behind, assuming the ice sheet would secure them forever.
Climate change has warmed the Arctic more than any other region on Earth, and a new study finds the portion of the ice sheet covering Camp Century could start to melt by the end of the century. http://www.colorado.edu/today/2016/08/04/melting-ice-sheet-could-release-frozen-cold-war-era-waste-0
"The waste at Camp Century covers 136 acres, roughly the size of 100 football fields," reports a University of Colorado research report. They estimate the site contains 200,000 liters (53,000 gallons) of diesel fuel, enough for a car to circle the globe 80 times. Based on building materials used in the Arctic at the time, the authors speculate the site contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pollutants toxic to human health. They also estimate the site has 240,000 liters (63,000 gallons) of waste water, including sewage, along with radioactive coolant from the nuclear generator.
Ice sheets flow slowly to the sea. 63,000 gallons of irradiated water used to cool the reactor, eventually found its way to the coast. There, they met the Greenland Shark, itself nearly immortal.
According to the BBC, 28 individual Greenland sharks were carbon dated. One female was 430 years old. This species is the longest living vertebrate species on this planet, reports the BBC. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37047168 Greenland sharks do not reach sexual maturity until they are 150 years old, reports the journal science.
In two trips in the summers of 2014 and 2015, landscape photographer Ken Bower traveled to Bluie East Two to shoot the hulks of rusted equipment, aviation-fuel barrels, and collapsed buildings still strewn across the earth at the lip of great fjord. He said he hopes his images bring attention to the problem, along with a petition to clean up the site he's circulated in hopes of catching the White House's attention.
Bower shot the photo above, of a military base in Greenland abandoned by the US Air Force in 1947. "Bluie East Two" is one of several World War II and Cold War installations left to crumble in Greenland after the military lost interest in maintaining them.
"Another, from the Army's secret "Project Iceworm," could soon leak toxic nuclear waste into the environment," reports Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/eerie-photos-of-wwii-junk-in-greenland-2016-12/#going-down-the-fjord-on-a-sunny-day-he-said-if-the-sun-is-hitting-these-barrels-it-kind-of-looks-like-flowers-from-a-distance-1
Hopefully it is not too late for the Greenland shark, and it's preternatural lifespan. Whether that lifespan is in fact a direct result of exposure to nuclear contamination, is a subject for further investigation.