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Why does Greenland risks becoming the second Hiroshima?

01.02.2019 21:07

Stasy Dementieff

More than half a century ago, on January 21, 1968, one of the largest man-made disasters of the 20th century occurred. A US Air Force bomber with four thermonuclear bombs on board crashed on the ice of the North Star Bay near the northernmost US Air Force base Thule located 1118 kilometers from the Arctic Circle.

The incident happened in the middle of the Cold War. In 1961 the United States launched the secret operation “Chrome Dome” which involved combat patrols of the airspace including the territory not far from the frontiers of the USSR. In particular Boeing B-52 Stratofortress with nuclear bombs on board had to “monitor” the situation 24 hours a day and in the case of receiving a prearranged signal they immediately flew to the borders of the USSR in order to dump lethal cargoes at strategic facilities for the Soviet government.

On the morning of January 21, 1968 the crew of the B-52 belonged to the 380th bomber wing of the US Air Force Strategic Command was preparing for the next flight. The aircraft was supposed to circle over the air base Thule and the Baffin Sea throughout the day. Before going on a mission one of the crew members Major Alfred D’Amario decided that it was cold inside and he put three foam pillows under the navigator’s seat to warm it up. It blocked the ventilation outlet of the heating system which turned out to be malfunctioning. During the flight it became colder in the cabin and d’Amario opened the air intake valve. Soon enough the temperature rose but due to technical problems the hot air coming from the turbine to the heating system didn’t get colder. As a result fire broke out. The commander made the only right decision to leave the aircraft that had become out of control.

The worst thing was that the components of thermonuclear bombs (plutonium, tritium, americium and uranium) were scattered over five kilometers around. In total, thousands of wreckage of the aircraft and about 500 million gallons (approximately 1.9 billion liters) of snow and ice which could be subjected to radioactive contamination were taken from the crash site. In addition, three nuclear charges were found and successfully deactivated.

Forty years later after the expiration of the statute of limitations, new details appeared in the B-52 crash incident. It turned out that there were not three nuclear bombs, as the Americans initially stated in their official reports, but four.  

Moreover, the latter one wasn’t found.  

Under the prevailing circumstances Greenland which for half a century has actually been living on a “nuclear barrel” risks turning into the “second Hiroshima”. The annual report of the country's Ministry of Health states that the incidence rate of cancer among those who live on the island is two times higher than the rest of the country's population. At the same time doctors are convinced that the grim statistics is a consequence of the 1986 B-52 crash. Norwegian environmentalists are sounding the alarm too. The nuclear bomb which was never found is a real threat to the flora and fauna of the Arctic.

Poisonous substances under the sea currents influence could spread it to hundreds or even thousands of kilometers and now they poison the fragile ecosystem of the region. It turns out that not only Greenland but also other circumpolar countries suffer from the “nuclear negligence” of Americans.