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The Military

America's Secret Underground Ice Fortresses 134

Hugh Pickens writes "With the advent of long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1950s, it was inevitable that military attention would be drawn to remote but strategic arctic regions. Now Defense Tech reports on Project Iceworm — America's secret cold war plan to build a network of underground missile bases under the Greenland ice cap capable of launching 'Iceman' ICBM missiles at Russia. The first base, 'Camp Century,' built 800 miles from the North Pole, contained 21 steel-arch covered trenches; the longest of which was 1,100-feet long, 26-feet wide and 26-feet high. The massive base, constructed to house 200 troops, was officially built to conduct scientific research. But the real reason was apparently to test out the feasibility of burying nuclear missiles below the ice, since Greenland is so much closer to Russia than the ICBM fields located in the continental U.S. If fully implemented, the project would cover an area of 52,000 square miles with clusters of missile launch centers spaced four miles apart. New tunnels were to be dug every year, so that after 5 years there would be thousands of firing positions, among which the several hundred missiles could be rotated. Camp Century was powered by a portable nuclear power plant designated PM-2A, the first of the U.S. Army's portable reactors to actually produce power, and was rated at two megawatts of electrical power, also supplying steam to operate the well that provided water for the troops. The Army team assembled the prefabricated reactor in 77 days, and just nine hours after fuel elements containing forty-three pounds of enriched Uranium-235 were inserted into the reactor, electricity was produced. Maintaining the tunnels at Camp Century required time-consuming and laborious trimming and removal of more than 120 tons of snow and ice each month. The camp, begun in 1959, was abandoned for good in 1966 and it is anticipated that the Greenland icecap, in constant motion, will completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of the coming years."

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