THE ANTARCTIC NUCLEAR DEPOSITORY

CONTENTS

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Central Antarctica
  4. Mt.Fridtjof Nansen
  5. Problems and Solutions
  6. Conclusions
  7. References
  8. Plate 1, Plan Section
  9. Plate 2, Map of Antarctica
  10. Plate 3, Geologic Map Of Queen Maud Mtns.
  11. Plate 4, Geologic Cross Sections Of Sites
  12. Photo 1. NASA Note Volcanic Mountains With Glaciers Cutting Out From Polar Ice Cap.
  13. Antarctica Links

ABSTRACT

This report outlines a proposal for the construction of permanent storage sites for nuclear weapons and fissionable materials in the Queen Maud Mountains of Central Antarctica. Site 1, near Mt. Fridtjof Nansen, is proposed for nuclear weapons and Site 2, near Mt. Fisher, is proposed as an alternative or additional site. This outline includes the reasons for choosing Central Antarctica and these two sites in particular. These sites have the geographical, biological, geological, technical and political advantages that other proposed sites are lacking. This proposal provides a clear goal for the Nuclear Powers and the world to agree upon and achieve.

INTRODUCTION

An Antartic Nuclear Depository is herein proposed as the best solution available for the permanent disposition of the huge number of nuclear weapons and quantities of fissionable materials that currently threaten to destroy life on this planet. The stringent requirements that must must be met by such a depository preclude all continents, oceans and even most of Antarctica. Fortunately, at least two sites have remained after this process of elimination. They are truly the "Last Places On Earth".

CENTRAL ANTARCTICA

(See Plan Section, Plate 1 and Map of Antarctica, Plate 2)

Central Antarctica is proposed for the following reasons:

  1. This area is simply as far away as possible from civilization and the biosphere.
  2. This area is totally void of people and wildlife.
  3. This area is about 1000 miles from McMurdo, the nearest town, and over 500 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the nearest portion of the biosphere. (See Project Area Map, Plate 2).
  4. This area has no rivers or groundwater. All water is frozen in either the Polar Plateau, Mtn. glaciers or the Ross Ice Shelf.
  5. This area has the least potential for ocean pollution, even over very long periods of time.
  6. This area is as safe and secure from natural disturbances such as earthquakes and volcanoes as possible.
  7. This area has an old and stable bedrock consisting of a thick volcanic formation, approximately 200 million years old, overlying very old crystalline intrusive rocks. (See Geologic Map, Plate 3 and Sections, Plate 4.)
  8. This area has a very long history of being covered by the Polar Ice Cap and the ice south of 85 S. Latitude is the most permanent known.
  9. This area has at least two sites that can be used, Site 1 is near Mt. Fridtgof Nansen and Site 2 is near Mt. Fisher.
  10. All transportation, technology, construction and drilling equipment is available.
  11. Antarctica is politically stable, disarmed and already owned jointly by the Nuclear Powers under the Antarctic Peace Treaty.
  12. The Antarctic Peace Treaty declares that Antarctica must only be used for peaceful and scientific purposes and this project would qualify under the terms of this treaty.
  13. This area's security would be easily verifiable by ground, air and satellite methods.
  14. Even though this area has the most difficult climate and terrain, the numerous advantages will allow this project to be accomplished far sooner, safer and cheaper in the long run than all previous proposals.
  15. The Antarctic Nuclear Depository is aproject that can help bring about a comprehensive and verifiable disarmament agreement by providing a clear and feasible goal for the negotiators.

MT. FRIDTJOF NANSEN

(See Geologic Map, Plate 3 and Cross Sections, Plate 4)

The Mt. Fridtjof Nansen area is proposed as Site 1

  1. Site 1 is on the south side of the Queen Maud Mountains, opposite from the coast. (At 169o W. Longitude and 85-20o S. Latitude.
  2. Site 1 is a cul-de-sac area surrounded on three sides by mountains.
  3. Site 1 bedrock is composed of a 200 million year old and stable volcanic formation overlying a very thick crystalline basement.
  4. The bedrock at Site 1 is covered by a moderate depth of permanent ice, approximately 500 feet thick.
  5. This ice is shallow enough to permit easy drilling into the bedrock beneath.
  6. The ice farther south in the Polar Basin is up to 10,000 feet deep and is not easily penetrated.
  7. The slow rate of ice flow in the cul-de-sac at Site 1 means less erosion, easier construction and driling.
  8. Site 1 is out of the way of the nearby glaciers which have higher ice flow and erosion rates.
  9. Since Site 1 is south of 85 S. Latitude and has a high elevation, it will have a very permanent ice cover.
  10. Site 1 is not only separated from the ocean by the mountains, but also by the widest part of the Ross Ice Shelf (Approximately 400 miles).
  11. Site 1 is accessible via the Amundsen Route, the Liv Glacier and also by air.
  12. Little America is the closest port and would be a good base for operations if rebuilt.
  13. Site 1 bedrock could provide safe storage for perhaps many millions of years.
  14. Site 1 can be made very secure and this can be easily verified by available ground, air and satellite methods.
  15. Site 2 at Mt. Fisher (172 W. Longitude and 85-10 S. Latitude) is a nearby "Sister Site" that is very similar and could be used as an alternative or additional site.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

This project is extremely difficult and peace is the greatest challenge.

PROBLEM 1:

The basic disarmanent and project agreements are a tremendous hurdle.

SOLUTIONS:

  1. Continuation of disarmament talks with a broader multinational approach is necessary.
  2. The Antarctic Peace Treaty is an excellent model for the agreements and it already includes the Nuclear Powers.
  3. Only Antarctica can provide the necessary mutual Real Estate.
  4. The numerous UN Resolutions and lessening of world tensions are steps in the right direction. This shows that the world wants a solution to these problems.
  5. The existing nuclear treaties are important and show that progress is possible and they can be relativel easily expanded.

PROBLEM 2:

What about the environmental risks during transportation to Antarctica?

SOLUTIONS:

  1. The nuclear warheads are already shipable, but fissionable materials would need to be prepared for shipment and storage. Most of the materials are already near the coasts at Power Plants and Bases.
  2. The cooperation of all local communities involved will be needed. People would probably be more enthusiastic and supportive of this because of their desire to be rid of this problem once and for all.
  3. Ocean Transport is the safest and the cargo could have additional safety and floatation equipment, plus numerous escort ships.
  4. Transport across the ice shelf may be more feasible and safer by air than surface routes. This needs further study.
  5. The nuclear materials, if properly prepared and placed deep enough, would never be able to melt the ice above, contaminate the groundwater, or be exposed by erosion.
  6. Antarctica is not a "Virgin Nuclear Territory" considering the old reactor at McMurdo. Nuclear materials can be han dled under Antarctic conditions.

PROBLEM 3:

Can these sites accomodate the huge numbers of warheads and vast quantities of fissionable materials?

SOLUTIONS:

  1. The warheads are numerous (50,000?) but they are relatively small and easily handled. They could be placed in about 1000 holes slant drilled from a single site.
  2. The vast quantities of fissionable materials (tonnage unknown) may require an underground mining technique such as a shaft down to storage rooms. This would be a project about as difficult as the Echo Bay Mine at the Artic Circle in Canada. It can be done.
  3. Previous work in Antarctica already includes the drilling of holes up to 3000 feet deep and the mining of coal at the "Dirty Diamond Mine" (See Plate 1).

CONCLUSIONS:

These two sites on the north side of the Queen Maud Mountains have numerous advantages over previous proposals. The main advantages include their geography, geology, biology, verifiability and political situation. Although there still remains much technical and political work to be done, this project offers mankind a chance for an end to the nuclear arms race and a safe place to store radioactive materials for millions of years.

REFERENCES:

  1. Map of Antarctica, Rand McNally Atlas.
  2. Geologic Map Of The Queen Maud Mountains, Antarctic Geologic Folio # 16 etc., U.S. Geological Survey.
  3. Antarctic Peace Treaty, 16 Nations.

Plate 1, Plan Section

Plate 2, Map Of Antartica

Plate 3, Geologic Map Of Queen Maud Mts.

Plate 4, Geologic Cross Sections Of Site


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See also San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station Seismic Risks
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Please send links that you think belong here, Thanks. July 26, 1996. Updated Bimonthly