By Andrew Walden (Originally published March 21, 2007)
Uranium is everywhere. The average person has over one microgram of uranium for every two pounds of body weight, according to the University of Michigan (UM) Health Physics Society. People daily eat on average 1.9 micrograms of uranium in their food. The oceans are so full of uranium that the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute is experimenting with technologies to extract it from the Kuroshio Current which is estimated to annually carry 5.2 million tons of suspended uranium flowing past the east coast of Taiwan and Japan. Unlike depleted uranium, the natural uranium in the food supply, the oceans and in human bodies is not depleted of its’ radioactive isotope, U-235.
Should people be concerned? Yes, but not because of eating fish caught from our naturally-uranium-filled oceans. The real danger is that this naturally occurring uranium is being used in Hawaii by anti-Americans as a weapon against the United States armed forces. House Bill 1452, now wending its way through the state Senate, is the tool. It would require “the department of health to take soil samples within 500 meters of Schofield Barracks to assess for depleted uranium, at least once every 3 months, and annually report to the legislature.”
The problem? They are guaranteed to find uranium in the soil around Schofield; it is everywhere in Hawaii--by nature. The result will be used to falsely accuse the military of spreading uranium through the environment. This false conclusion will in turn enlist the State of Hawaii in the fake “DU” scare to disarm our troops of one of their most effective armaments—depleted uranium ammunition—while at war. Armed forces from as many as 35 countries have used DU weapons, including Saddam’s Iraqi forces, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait and Taiwan.
DU is a life saver for American soldiers. Because it is 70% more dense than lead, and when alloyed with tungsten tends to sharpen rather than flatten on impact, a DU round will zip right through enemy armor. It then ignites causing ammunition and fuel to explode and burn, killing all the head-chopping Islamic fascists inside and thus saving hundreds of humans. Equivalent lead ammunition would just bounce off. DU’s effectiveness reduces the number of shots needed to kill an enemy, thus reducing the risk posed by stray bullets to civilians. DU is one of the reasons American deaths in Iraq are 3,250 compared to 58,000 in Vietnam or 33,000 in Korea. Low casualties are a major source of frustration for anti-Americans. As Michael Moore explained April 14, 2004, "… the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let….”
Natural uranium contains on average 0.71% radioactive U-235 and 99.28% U-238. US Department of Defense processing of natural uranium to extract the U-235 for nuclear power or nuclear weapons leaves depleted uranium containing only 0.2% U-235 and 99.8% U-238. While U-235 is the highly radioactive material found in atom bombs or nuclear power plants, U-238 emits zero radiation. Far from being a radiation danger, depleted uranium is actually used as a radiation shield around nuclear reactors on Navy ships, submarines and in civilian reactors.
According to Marvin H. Wilkening of the Department of Physics, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the soils of Hawai`i naturally contain trace amounts of uranium which release just under one atom of radon gas per square centimeter every two seconds. This is why realtors are required to warn homebuyers of radon dangers. The University of Michigan researchers estimate that nationwide an average of 4840 pounds—more than two tons-- of uranium is present in the top one foot of soil per square mile (also 26,400 lbs of radioactive thorium). If Hawai`i soils are average, over 31 million pounds of uranium (and 170 million pounds of thorium) are present in the top foot of soil state wide —all entirely natural.
If the Hawaii Department of Health goes looking for DU near Schofield, they will be examining soil samples naturally laden with natural uranium in order to find any evidence of the less radioactive depleted uranium. Will they be able to distinguish between DU and natural uranium in trace amounts? To do so requires very advanced technology. Illogically, any discovery of the less dangerous, less radioactive DU, in the midst of the more radioactive natural uranium will be hailed by the so-called-environmentalists as an environmental disaster wrought by the military. HB 1452 eliminates any dispute, deciding in advance that: “depleted uranium contamination would only occur because of military operations.”
How radioactive is depleted uranium? The International Atomic Energy Administration points out, “DU is 3 million times less radioactive than radium still found in many old luminous watches and 10 million times less radioactive than what is used in fire detectors.” DU-oxide was being used as a yellow pigment for glass and ceramics as recently as 1999. DU is also used in many commercial airliners as a balancing weight on ailerons and in helicopter rotors. A Boeing 747 may have between 880 and 3300 lbs of depleted uranium used as a tail balance. When activists fly to Honolulu, they bring a couple of hundred pounds of so-called DU “contamination” with them in the plane. Without tail balance the plane would likely crash, thus forcing cancellation of their anti-DU protest.
In a typical example of anti-DU rhetoric, the “Moku Loa” chapter of the Sierra Club claims: “The Super Ferry is Super Scary! …will the 20-ton Stryker tanks be transported on HSF, complete with depleted uranium ammunition? … They fire weapons containing depleted uranium (DU), which is radioactive and potentially health-threatening.” Superferry opponent Juan Williams writes in the November 20, 2006 Haleakala Times, “We can’t afford to have depleted uranium released and spread throughout Hawaii (on the Superferry).”
If DU is that dangerous, the logical response would be to shut down the airline industry to protect the public from the massive amounts of DU used in airplanes and helicopters. The sudden lack of airplanes would be a strong argument for the Superferry, not against it. But somehow Williams and the Sierra Club overlook this, possibly because shutting down civilian airliners would not achieve the goal of disarming America. Also, while an airline shutdown would achieve the goal of stopping all development; such a demand would bring about an economic depression, anger almost everyone in Hawaii, and thereby clearly expose the false environmentalists for what they are. Perhaps what is needed is for the legislature to attain the same level of appreciation for the importance of national defense.
“Gulf War Syndrome” afflicts hundreds or even thousands of veterans of the First Gulf War. Instead of searching for a cause and a treatment, anti-American propagandists use Gulf War Syndrome as an excuse to attack DU. They would have veterans believe that American use of DU must be the cause of Gulf-War Syndrome, ignoring the possibility that the disorders are caused by left over chemical munitions and residuals from the Iran-Iraq war, by poisons released in the hundreds of oil-well fires started under Saddam’s orders, or by multiple causes. They also ignore Iraqi military use of Soviet-supplied DU weapons.
The rhetoric on DU can get pretty hot. For instance Pauline Rigby, writing on the Green Left Weekly website in 2004 claims, “Weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq, yet the country is today contaminated forever, because weapons of mass destruction have been used against it. Thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste were dumped on Iraq during Gulf Wars I and II and during the intervening years when bombing continued through the use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition. The contamination of Iraq with DU has been described as the equivalent of the unleashing of 13 Hiroshima-type bombs on the country.”
Rigby is lying on every point. Coalition forces discovered WMD in Iraq totaling 500 chemical warheads. In addition US forces removed what the BBC describes as “About 1.8 metric tons of ‘yellow cake’ and 500 tons of unrefined uranium” from Tuwaitha, Iraq where Saddam’s regime had stored it in hopes of re-starting Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. When US forces arrived, they found ignorant looters dumping Saddam’s uranium in order to salvage 55-gallon drums for sale to local villagers as water tanks. US action has sharply reduced the amount of radioactivity released by uranium in Iraq—exactly the opposite of the very common and typical lies told by cheap anti-American propagandists.
In another example, Brita Mae Rose of “CounterPunch” writes, “Depleted Uranium has a half life of 4.7 billion years--that means thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children will suffer for tens of thousands of years to come. This is what I call terrorism."
Wrong. Depleted uranium has a long half-life because it emits so little radiation: Far less than many natural radiation sources. No Iraqi children will be affected by DU radiation; they are infinitely more at risk from radiation from the bright desert sun—and from the fascist Islamist baby killers who are inspired by propagandists such as Ms. Rose to believe they can defeat America by killing Iraqi children in front of TV cameras.
Marti Townsend of the pseudo-environmentalist group “KEHEA” writes in a March 29 letter to Senator Roz Baker (D-Maui), “According to the International Atomic Energy Agency exposure to DU – especially when inhaled – triggers mutation of genes is linked to extreme and debilitating birth defects, nervous system disorders, terminal kidney disease, and many types of cancer. The DU at Schofield Barracks poses a threat to the majority of Oahu residents.”
Wrong. Here is what the IAEA really says: “The most detailed ongoing study on the health effects of DU exposure is of 33 friendly fire veterans of the Gulf War, most of whom have embedded DU shrapnel in their bodies that cannot be removed. To date none has developed any abnormalities due to uranium chemical toxicity or radio toxicity, despite showing greatly increased levels of uranium in their urine…. United Nation's Environment Programme (UNEP) studies in 2001 (Kosovo), 2002 (Serbia and Montenegro) and 2003 (Bosnia and Herzegovina) - to which IAEA experts contributed - found it was highly unlikely that a reported increase in the risk of cancer in the Balkan regions could be associated with the residues of DU munitions used there during the war in the mid-1990s. It found the probability of significant exposure to local population was very low.”
When all the lies about DU radiation are exposed, the fallback argument is that it is poisonous when ingested or inhaled. This is true, but then so is lead. Lead toxicity is suspected by physicians when blood lead levels reach 200 micrograms per liter. By the logic of the anti-DU protesters, the US should also ban lead ammunition. The result would be complete US disarmament leading to worldwide warfare and a new dark age. Billions would perish. A better plan would be: don’t eat lead, likewise don’t eat uranium.
As any scientist knows, a real study must have a “control” to determine if uranium levels found near Schofield are unusual. The logical choice would be to do a control study of the Hawaii State Capitol Building and its inhabitants.
If legislators weigh on average 200 pounds each and are no more radioactive than the average person, then it is likely that their bodies contain together 7600 micrograms of non-depleted uranium. If the average legislator weights 300 pounds it would be 11,400 micrograms of uranium. This does not include staffers, visitors or lobbyists—some of whom may be even more radioactive than legislators.
Many common building materials contain uranium. According to the University of Michigan researchers, drywall contains on average 1000 parts per billion uranium as well as 3000 parts per billion thorium. Clay brick contains on average, 8200 parts per billion uranium and 10800 parts per billion thorium. Cement has on average, 3400 parts per billion uranium and 5100 parts per billion thorium.
If the Big Square Building comprises 100,000 square feet weighing 100 pounds per square foot, and that weight were made up of equal parts drywall, brick, and cement, the ten-million-pound building contains about 42 pounds of non-depleted uranium and 63 pounds of radioactive thorium.
Jim Albertini of the misnamed Malu-Aina Peace Center writes March 27, “We must not tolerate having any depleted uranium in our environment….” By this logic the legislature should immediately be shut down and quarantined as a toxic waste dump.
This could all work out quite well.
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Depleted Uranium: Radioactive Propaganda
The Depleted Uranium Scam