Project Iceworm: An Amazing Example of What Nuclear Energy Can Do

November 15th, 2013
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In 1960, a project was undertaken by the US military the likes of which seem almost impossible today.  In fact, I doubt we would ever make it past an environmental impact study.  But back then, there seemed to be a more ambitious spirit for big feats of imagination and engineering.

Project Iceworm was an attempt to build a veritable city under the snow and ice of Greenland.  Tunnels were cut into the ice and buildings erected which housed hundreds of personnel.  The encampment, dubbed Camp Century,  had heated barracks, a kitchen, mess hall, medical center, laboratories.  The camp was staffed year round by more than 200.

All of this was made possible by a cutting edge nuclear reactor.  Keeping the camp powered by conventional means required the transport of enormous volumes of diesel fuel.  This was simply not sustainable for such a large a remotely-located facility.  The PM-2A was one of the first portable nuclear power systems ever created.  It was transported to the site and preformed well for the length of the project.   It provided ample electricity, which was used for everything from heating the structures to melting ice to provide drinking water.

A truly amazing film was made to document the project:



(If your browser does not support embedded video click here)


The official purpose of the project was scientific research.  However, while scientific data was collected, this was not the primary purpose.  Rather, Camp Century, was intended to be the prototype for a much larger project to build tunnels and missile launch complexes under the ice of Greenland.  It was hoped that this would be an ideal location for missiles which could survive an attack by the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately the project was much shorter lived than planned.  The movement of the glacier ice was much greater than had been anticipated and it was not long before tunnels began to shift with the icepack.  By 1964, the task of clearing and maintaining tunnels had become a full time operation.  Without continuous excavation, the shifting ice would destroy the facility. More than 120 tons of ice and snow had to be moved per month to keep the tunnels clear.  By 1966, the camp was abandoned.  The reactor was removed and returned to the United States.  In 1969, an evaluation team visited what was left of Camp Century and found most of the structures were crushed by the advancing ice.

None the less, the project did return some important scientific data, including numerous ice cores. It also served as a perfect illustration of the limitless possibilities that small nuclear reactors offer. In extreme environments, where fuel is not easily transported, nuclear energy can provide the power necessary to sustain scientific operations or other facilities.

Nuclear reactors would be perfect for places like South Pole Station or McMurdo Base. One was actually tried at McMurdo Base, but it was not very successful, partially because of its early experimental design. A modern compact reactor would likely fair much better, but that is unlikely in the current political and environmental climate. Still, if you want to stay warm in the coldest of places or have limitless energy away from civilization, you can’t beat a nuclear reactor.

More info on this page.


This entry was posted on Friday, November 15th, 2013 at 9:05 pm and is filed under Good Science, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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57 Responses to “Project Iceworm: An Amazing Example of What Nuclear Energy Can Do”

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  1. 51
    DV82XL Says:

            tamara said:

    certain families have maintained a hereditary and collective knowledge in which they have passed down through centuries. historically unrivaled is the preservation of blue-blood lines…personally i feel that is exactly what we have seen from the pyramids (worldwide) to “cold war” “fallout” shelters. from castles to hitlers northern escapades. from iceworm to svalbard. guises for certain families to preserve their genes without being toppled by civil unrest… how else could they get us to preserve their families and not ours?

    Right.

    Then I can see how you would see a connection between projects separated by a thousand miles, half a century, and executed by two organisations almost completely diametrically opposed to one another in philosophy and mission.

    One is forced to wonder however if ‘they’ got to save their families, and ‘we’ didn’t, (as far back apparently as the Bronze Age) why ‘we’ are still around.


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  2. 52
    Shafe Says:

            DV82XL said:

    One is forced to wonder however if ‘they’ got to save their families, and ‘we’ didn’t, (as far back apparently as the Bronze Age) why ‘we’ are still around.

    Bronze Age? Oh yes, the Jewwwws.

    Few people are aware that in addition to Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph had a third son, Roth. During the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt, Roth and his children, the Rothschilds, maintained control of the Egyptian
    Federal Reserve and established a banking system from which they financed the construction of the pyramids. Profits from those loans as well as from manipulation of the Egyptian Stock Exchange helped to bankroll the migration to Canaan.

    They conspired with the rulers of Babylon to exile the Israelites, then bought war-torn properties at depressed prices, and demanded premium rents after the Restoration. It’s all written down somewhere. Do the research.


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  3. 53
    Anon Says:

    Don’t forget the <Sarcasm> tag Shafe.


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  4. 54
    Shafe Says:

            Anon said:

    Don’t forget the <Sarcasm> tag Shafe.

    I’m philosophically opposed to it. It’s tantamount to explaining the punchline of your own joke, which completely deflates the effect. That does bite me sometimes, but I consider it a challenge to craft sarcasm that’s easily recognizable to most, but will hook the complete dunderheads. That can be difficult at times.


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  5. 55
    drbuzz0 Says:

            tamara said:

    if i had the power and money like one of the top 3-5 banking families…

    I find these kind of claims to be especially nutty, when you look at the basis of it. There really are not certain families that rule the world because in a couple of generations (or even a single one) all can be made or lost.

    The only families that seem to keep this up are the ones with government support, as in, official royal families.

    Where are the great families of decades past? The Astors? The Vanderbelts? There are still a few who have money, but not like they were. They may be rich, but not fantastically wealthy, they are just upper class, at best. How about the Kennedy’s? The family is a ghost of what it was.

    On the other hand, there are billionaires today who came from the middle class. Look at Bill Gates. He was from a normal family, upper middle class, but not fantastically wealthy.

    Blowing family fortunes is not exactly uncommon either. In fact, one could say I should be blue blooded.

    My great great grandfather was a wealthy and high ranking politician in Ireland. He was a socialite, he served as the mayor of Limerick. He was one of the “blue blood” families of the city. His son, my great grandfather was not. He was a drunk and considered an embarrassment to the family. So they gave him a few dollars and a ticket to the United States and told him not to come back. That’s how part of my family came over.

            tamara said:

    if there was a way to better assure my genes were carried on during the next unpredictable season of this earth…i would call out every resource. always being prepared for the most extreme the earth has been known to befall. every field is so compartmentalized from another it hides itself away. certain families have maintained a hereditary and collective knowledge in which they have passed down through centuries. historically unrivaled is the preservation of blue-blood lines.

    Maybe I am different than others, but I don’t see why it matters. Your bloodline? Genes? You already share most of your genes with everyone else. I wouldn’t really care if my great great great grandchildren are able to carry on another generation. I’ll be dead. It won’t really matter. I’m really concerned about myself

            tamara said:

    personally i feel that is exactly what we have seen from the pyramids (worldwide) to “cold war” “fallout” shelters. from castles to hitlers northern escapades. from iceworm to svalbard. guises for certain families to preserve their genes without being toppled by civil unrest… how else could they get us to preserve their families and not ours?

    just more “dragons” they have the peasants trekking over the next hill for.

    um…

    Well pyramids are found in a few cultures, most likely because they are the easiest structure to build to any height. With a wide base and a tapered top, they are the most stable structures. If you want to make something tall and lack good structural technology, a pyramid is the way to go. If you just stack stuff in a pile, you just about get a pyramid.

    It is pretty easy to build one, without any machinery even. You just need an unlimited supply of manpower. Whether it is slaves or compulsory civil-service, a large enough work gang can move mountains.

    As for fallout shelters/bunker etc, they are pretty simple and straight forward too. Borrowing underground is the most direct way of putting a lot of material between you and a blast, whether it is conventional or nuclear. Of course, a lot of steel and concrete help too. But there is no secret knowledge to building a bunker.


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  6. 56
    tamara Says:

    Well pyramids are found in a few cultures, most likely because they are the easiest structure to build to any height.

    i could take everyones points out one by one and give my two cents as ive thought about this a long time but ill just take one for now since its awfully time consuming and im getting the idea none wants to ponder the ideas possibility.

    pyramids are the easiest shape to come out from if buried underneath. from what ive seen many of the pyramids have underground tunnels able to carry you any direction in case of need. so that gives one 5 directions to escape. escape what?

    there are many possibilities for cultures/families/areas to be prepared for. there were animals found buried across all of north america, migrating, all ages, all stomachs full of green food, and all their lungs were full of ash. yellowstone is one such event i could see preparing for if you have the resources. for over a decade its been rising at alarming rates. have you seen the cauldron? its massive. its thought that if something that big blows we would endure a nuclear winter. its also assumed north america would be buried under a mile plus of ash.

    i only posted for discussion. i was curious if anyone has ever thought of this and their ideas about it, not against it. like i said its a thought. if you havent thats okay. i didnt ask if anyone wanted to argue or mock me… but spend your time as you wish.
    i have a lot of reasons on this but im not sure this is the forum for brainstorming about it.


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  7. 57
    DV82XL Says:

            tamara said:

    i have a lot of reasons on this but im not sure this is the forum for brainstorming about it.

    Well Tamara this blog makes no bones of its mission: it says right up on the header that its a bad science blog. Why then would you think we would take these ideas seriously?

    There are lots of ways to tell the difference between science and pseudoscience. Most involve analyzing empirical claims. There’s an even easier way to tell the difference between websites and message boards that disseminate pseudoscience compared to those that adhere strictly to scientific evidence. Pseudoscience depends in large part on “belief buddies.”

    Pigliucci and Boudry, writing in Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem, explain:

    “These groups collect and disseminate information on issues where scientific information and approaches are more or less relevant. They often feel that their views are neglected or stigmatized in society at large. As a result, these belief buddies consciously attempt to affirm contributions that further their agenda; dissent is discouraged lest it lead to a splintering of the group…

    Belief buddies may not welcome criticism … Their job is to convey information that supports their core project and to reassure beleaguered constituents.

    Science, on the other hand, involves critical communities. Their job is to challenge the information that supports their core project and everyone and everything is a target for criticism.”

    Simply put: pseudoscience takes place in supportive communities, while real science takes place in critical communities. This is a critical community and those posting here should expect that their ideas will get a rough ride if they are not grounded in hard science and good evidence.


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