Greenland, Denmark and the pathway to uranium supplier status

Issue Brief

Greenland, Denmark and the pathway to uranium supplier status

On 24 October 2013, the Greenland parliament, Inatsisartut, lifted a decades-long moratorium on mining radioactive elements, paving the way for the country – and the Kingdom of Denmark – to eventually become the newest Western (and Arctic) supplier of uranium. Greenland's status as a territory within a state is accompanied by a complicated legal system within the Danish Kingdom, where Nuuk has authority over its natural resources and Copenhagen is constitutionally responsible for the Kingdom's foreign, defence and security policies. This system is further complicated by Denmark's membership (and Greenland's non-membership) in the European Union. For a Kingdom that has otherwise foregone the nuclear fuel cycle (except for medical purposes), the process ahead for Greenland and Denmark in jointly developing a ‘Kingdom-appropriate’ regulatory system to govern uranium promises to be complex, and one based on a steep learning curve. The biggest challenges are not only how to administratively structure a system for uranium governance, including delineating authorities between Greenland and Denmark, but also the need for a comprehensive, clearly articulated and jointly approved ‘uranium policy’ to guide its implementation.

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