A decommissioned U.S. military base encased in the Greenland Ice Sheet since the 1960s is slowly being unearthed by Earth’s rising temperatures, along with the toxic waste stored inside. Snowfall is not able to keep up with melting ice on top of the Cold War-era base, which could mean the underground pollutants could enter marine ecosystems by the end of the century.

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Camp Century was built in 1959 to study construction methods in harsh, wintry conditions, but also with the intent of being a within-reach nuclear launch site against the Soviet Union. Even though the latter never panned out, the “city under the ice” was still powered by a nuclear reactor and currently houses thousands of liters of toxic waste.

Related: Greenland’s ice is melting faster than previously thought

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters determined that the snowfall covering the area may not be able to keep up with the rate of melting ice. By 2090 the rates could reverse, meaning, “it’s only a matter of time before the wastes melt out; it becomes irreversible,” stated study author and climate scientist at Toronto’s York University William Colgan.

Even though the nuclear reaction chamber was removed when Camp Century was decommissioned in 1967, an estimated 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,400 gallons of waste water (including radioactive coolant), and an infrastructure containing toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) remains. Unfortunately, a clean-up initiative would be too costly to undergo until a significant amount of the ice melts. This gives the U.S. and Greenland time to figure out who is responsible for the job.

Via New Atlas

Images via Flickr, Wikimedia