Published 29 January 2013
Denmark, environment, Greenland, Raw materials, uranium
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A majority in the Danish parliament signalled their readiness to allow extraction and exports of uranium from Greenland, marking a historical shift in Danish foreign policy after 30 years of opposition to nuclear power.
A majority in the Danish parliament is prepared for the first time to repeal Denmark’s so-called zero-tolerance policy on the radioactive metal, according to media reports.
The world’s fifth largest uranium deposit, Kvanefjeld, is situated in the south of Greenland and if the Danish self-ruled territory makes a formal request to exploit it, Denmark could become one of the biggest exporters of the radioactive metal.
Uranium is created as a byproduct when extracting many valuable and strategically important metals used in for example mobile phones. Uranium is also used for nuclear power and atomic bombs.
Because of the security political significance, Greenland will have to ask Denmark for permission before the zero-tolerance policy can be repealed.
“We have to approach this positively. We would be caught in a very weird Danish role if we block Greenland’s wish,” foreign policy spokesperson Rasmus Helveg Petersen from the Social Liberals, one of the parties constituting the Danish government, told the newspaper Politiken.
New report to be published
Greenland, a former Danish colony, was granted home rule in 1979. Thirty years later, Greenland assumed self-determination with responsibility for judicial affairs, police, and natural resources, but the Danish government is still in charge of foreign affairs, financial policy and security.
In spring, a report by the Greenlandic Directory for Raw Materials on uranium’s effect on the environment and public health will be published. If the report doesn’t point to major issues, there is likely to be a majority in Greenland's parliament for extracting uranium.
"We support uranium mines as long as these are handled in a proper way and in collaboration with Denmark," said Greenland's Deputy Prime Minister Jens Frederiksen, a member of the Democratic Party.
"If everybody else can sell uranium, then we might as well. There's a lot of money in it," he said.
Meanwhile, Greenland's Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist said his party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) wants a public debate in Greenland on uranium first.
"Until there is a good reason for repealing the zero-tolerance policy, we will keep our zero-tolerance policy," Kleist said.