Stop Uranium Wars

this Site is maintained by the Pandora DU research Project, which is part of the Stop Uranium Wars coalition. The aim is to publicise and make available information on the uranium weapons subject, plus making resources and data available to be used by groups and individuals in the campaign.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dust Up

Dust up

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http://tracypress. com/content/ view/8873/ 2/
John Upton/Tracy Press Saturday, 21 April 2007

Tons of mildly radioactive material could be blown up if an explosives testing permit is approved for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. By John Upton

Glenn Moore/Tracy Press - BLAST OFF:The 851 firing table at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Site 300 plays host to outdoor test explosions. A permit application filed with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, if approved, would allow the Lab to increase the amount of depleted uranium and other materials exploded in outdoor tests.

Analysis of an air pollution permit application filed two weeks ago shows that tons of radioactive depleted uranium and other toxic heavy metals could be blown up in outdoor military test blasts near Tracy.

Yearly, 20 explosions could each vaporize 220 pounds of depleted uranium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Site 300 testing ground, off Corral Hollow Road in the San Joaquin Valley air basin.

Lawrence Livermore has applied to detonate more than 4 tons a year of depleted uranium on outdoor gravel-lined Site 300 blast tables. The lab already conducts 60 to 100 smaller test blasts annually in which an unstated amount of depleted uranium is used “routinely,” according to a February letter sent to Tracy homes by Site 300’s manager.

Lab officials this week said they have no immediate plans to detonate much of the material listed in the permit application, including 20 grams annually of radioactive tritium, 1,450 pounds of lead and 1.3 tons of corrosive lithium hydroxide, a common ingredient in batteries.

Quantities of materials listed in the permit application were based on “back-calculations” of doses allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency outside Site 300’s border, according to Mike Dunning from the lab’s nuclear weapons program.

The lab applied for the highest limits possible to save time and money on later permit amendments and additions, Dunning said.

The executive director of lab watchdog Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, Marylia Kelley, described as “unrealistic” the lab’s assumption that just 9 percent — or up to 720 pounds per year — of the uranium that could be blown up outdoors at Site 300 would be light enough for the wind to carry it away from the 7,000-acre weapons testing site.

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the rest — as much as 7,300 pounds annually — would settle on the ground at the 50-year-old site, which is already listed by the EPA as one of the nation’s most-polluted pieces of land.

Depleted uranium has advantages in military use, but its health effects are disputed. Some blame it for causing debilitating wartime illnesses, while others argue its radioactivity is so weak that it’s harmless.

Depleted uranium is used in munitions because it’s twice as heavy as lead and because it has characteristics that allow it to penetrate tank and other armor and then explode, according to Richard Muller, a Berkeley-based physicist. Muller, after a 34-year career, resigned last year from the 47-year-old JASON science and technology advisory group, which is sponsored by federal intelligence, energy and defense agencies.

“They make a hollow region in the explosive and they coat that with depleted uranium,” Muller said. “When they set off the explosive, the depleted uranium is pushed into the empty space at high speed, where it … goes forward with enormous velocity.

“They don’t use it for the radioactivity — the radioactivity is just a little bit of a pain in the neck. Depleted uranium is not terribly radioactive.”

Depleted uranium is used in American armor as well as grenades, bombs and armor-piercing bullets. U.S. forces have used it in both Iraq wars.

Army munitions director Col. Jim Naughton in a 2003 press briefing on depleted uranium said the powerful bomb material gives the U.S. military a big advantage on the battlefield.

“The Iraqis tell us, ‘Terrible things happened to our people because you used it last time,’” Naughton said. “Why do they want it to go away They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of them.”

A 2002 report commissioned by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which summarized other studies, blamed the hundreds of tons of depleted uranium used in Iraq for the debilitating and widespread Gulf War syndrome, for a four- to six-fold increase in Iraqi birth defects after the first Gulf War and for a seven- to 10-fold increase in Iraqi cancer rates.

Specific individual deaths and serious illnesses were linked in the report to inhaled depleted uranium, which is toxic and emits low-level radioactivity for the average three to four years that it takes to leave the lungs, according to the report.

“The users of depleted uranium have tried to keep the effects of depleted uranium secret,” wrote report author Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen.

According to a December letter to the Tracy Press editor signed by Lawrence Livermore health physicist Gary Mansfield, the health effects of depleted uranium are negligible.

“A key issue is that the health effects, if any, of a substance depend not on whether any of the substance is inhaled or ingested, but on how much of the substance is taken into the body,” Mansfield wrote. “Because it is so weakly radioactive, it is very difficult to take enough depleted uranium into your body to cause any harm.”

The Bush administration last month invited the $1.7 billion-a-year Department of Energy weapons lab, which will be partly managed by military contractors starting later this year, to design a new generation of atomic warheads. Lab officials have denied that their San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District permit application is linked to that mission.

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