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Uranium-238 Artillary Shells-Desert Storm  
User currently offlineSkyyKat From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1721 times:

I just spoke to a friend that served in desert storm, he informed me that almost 10,000 US solders died as a result of exposure to this artillery by the beginning of the year 2000. He told me that this artillery was used because of the readily available supply of spent fuel of nuclear nature, and it was very cheap to produce into a weapon as it required no mining, and as uranium was a VERY heavy and hard metal thus being a very effective projectile..


Does anyone have any information on this? I am just starting to research it right now and found a reference to this in a documentary, but I cant find that much more information on it.

It strikes me as odd that 10,000 solders can die within a 9 year period and for some reason I have not heard of this before.

I know the controversial use of uranium is very closely tied to the aviation industry as well, which I used to be a part of, especially as pry bars and I was always assured that the metal was safe as long as we did not cut or shave it in any way.

He also mentioned that over 100,000 troops suffered health effects of this metal.

14 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePhoenix9 From Canada, joined Aug 2007, 2546 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1691 times:

You can start here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium

Has quite a bit of information.

Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War_syndrome



Life only makes sense when you look at it backwards.
User currently offlineJohns624 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 922 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1664 times:



Quoting SkyyKat (Thread starter):
he informed me that almost 10,000 US solders died as a result

Not even close. This is BS. This many deaths couldn't be covered up.


User currently offlineSkyyKat From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1657 times:



Quoting Johns624 (Reply 2):
Not even close. This is BS. This many deaths couldn't be covered up.

While you may be right, the last few hours of research has come up with a few (supposed) facts:


#1 the USA did use depleted uranium ammunition during desert storm.

#2 Depleted uranium is not very dangerous being handled as whole ammunition, but after firing and destroying a target, approaching the vicinity is at that point very dangerous as the 'dust' becomes radio-active.

#3 There is no evidence of US solders of ever receiving warning not to get close to their destroyed targets, which is what posed the health problem. (I have also found no evidence to the contrary)

#4 Dozens of solders have come out to speak out about this....


Now just to be clear, I am no expert nor do I claim to be on this topic and all I have is about 4 hours of research online so far... I just find this intriguing. This is not my conviction in anyway, I am just looking for some more opinions.


User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 4, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 1642 times:



Quoting SkyyKat (Reply 3):
#1 the USA did use depleted uranium ammunition during desert storm.

#2 Depleted uranium is not very dangerous being handled as whole ammunition, but after firing and destroying a target, approaching the vicinity is at that point very dangerous as the 'dust' becomes radio-active.

#3 There is no evidence of US solders of ever receiving warning not to get close to their destroyed targets, which is what posed the health problem. (I have also found no evidence to the contrary)

#4 Dozens of solders have come out to speak out about this....

1 - and continues to do so on the A-10 Thunderbolt in the form of cannon shells
2 - the radioactivity level of U-238 is _enormously_ low, and is one of the reasons that natural U is about 99.27% U-238, 0.72% U-235 (which is what makes bombs go bang), and 0.01% other short-lived isotopes of U. The hazard posed is almost totally due to the fact that on detonation the warhead spreads a cloud of very fine pyrophoric (can ignite spontaneously in air; see http://www.ilpi.com/msds/ref/pyrophoric.html) dust. Fine dust in the lungs poses a very serious health risk. To put the radiation risk in perspective, Canadian reactors use natural U as fuel, not enriched as in the USA. For fresh fuel (not yet in the reactor) the shielding used when being stored or moved is polyethylene plastic as you find on your dry-cleaned clothes when you pick them up.
3 - have no knowledge of that
4 - not to disrespect soldiers who have served, but claims like these without validated data are examples of 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' -- "after the event therefore because of the event" . Similar claims have been made by US/Canadian/AUstralian veterans of who were used as guinea pigs in the 1950s tests in Nevada, but it is difficult to prove a causal link, as there are a large number of factors involved in cancer. To short circuit the bad optics of the situation, the Canadian government paid about $22K to surviving Canadian vets (or widows, I believe) as compensation.

Maybe that strikes you as cold, but is intended to be factual.



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1617 times:

I did a brief look around and I found nothing more than horror stories from the usual sources.

User currently onlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14004 posts, RR: 62
Reply 6, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 1563 times:

Uranium is a naturally occuring element, which is present almost everywhere in rocks, dirt etc..
Uranium has a very low radioactivity (else it would have disappeared millions of years ago).
Uranium is a heavy metal, and as such, in soluble forms, toxic, similar to lead and cadmium.

Uranium salts a so harmless that we as first semester chemistry students, were allowed to handle uranium compounds during our initial lab class with minimal supervision.

Jan


User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 7, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 1519 times:



Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 6):
Uranium is a naturally occuring element, which is present almost everywhere in rocks, dirt etc..
Uranium has a very low radioactivity (else it would have disappeared millions of years ago).
Uranium is a heavy metal, and as such, in soluble forms, toxic, similar to lead and cadmium.

Natural U overall has a very low overall field strength, quite right. That's due to the fact that the significantly more radioactive isotope, U-235, has mostly converted itself to decay products by now. Explaining why it is only about 0.72% of uranium ore. U-235 off the top of my head has a half-life of several hundred million years (just having my 1st coffee, so brain not functioning really well !), U-238 half-life is on the order of billions of years. It's very nearly stable.

Go back a billion or so years in time and you would find uranium ore with U-235 concentrations on the order of 3% or more. Let water flow through the ore body and you would have a natural-formed nuclear reactor. One such has been identified in Oklo, Gabon. See http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0010.shtml . There are likely others.

Mother Nature always has her surprises.



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1472 times:



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 7):
Natural U overall has a very low overall field strength, quite right. That's due to the fact that the significantly more radioactive isotope, U-235, has mostly converted itself to decay products by now. Explaining why it is only about 0.72% of uranium ore. U-235 off the top of my head has a half-life of several hundred million years (just having my 1st coffee, so brain not functioning really well !), U-238 half-life is on the order of billions of years. It's very nearly stable.

Uranium also makes a brilliant orange pottery glaze that was used by the Homer Laughlin Company in their Fiesta dinnerware. Of course you really don't want to use the stuff for that purpose any more.

Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 7):
Go back a billion or so years in time and you would find uranium ore with U-235 concentrations on the order of 3% or more. Let water flow through the ore body and you would have a natural-formed nuclear reactor. One such has been identified in Oklo, Gabon. See http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0010.shtml . There are likely others.

Mother Nature always has her surprises.

Indeed. I'd never heard of this before. It gives the lie to the idea that Pu is a man made element. It appears that nature was busily cooking up her own. Musta got pretty hot down in there.


User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 9, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 1415 times:



Quoting SkyyKat (Reply 3):
#3 There is no evidence of US solders of ever receiving warning not to get close to their destroyed targets, which is what posed the health problem. (I have also found no evidence to the contrary)

#4 Dozens of solders have come out to speak out about this....

Re point #3 - the usual warning is that destroyed targets have to be treaded as extremely hazadrous. While resultant chemicals are always a threat - unexpended ordnance is the greatest threat. Any troops who say they were never told their targets could be a health risk either had a very poor company commander / first sgt - or more likely were not paying attention.

There is also very much the post battle rush of "I survived" which makes you, or at least me, feel that nothing else can harm them.

Re point #4 - there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that soldiers on the battle field, and even in rear areas, were exposed to combinations of metals and chemicals which cause a lot of unforseen problems.

The decisions made to use Agent Orange in such quantities and so extensively in Vietnam were made to save lives. However, many of the people alive today suffering from long term effects of Agent Orange would have been killed in country if it was not used.

This happens in every war, and will in the future.

Is DU responsible and identifiable as the primary agent for those vets suffering?

I strongly doubt it. The worst case in my mind is people like my son-in-law with DU shrapnel slivers in his body. My lead slivers from Lebanon are also a danger to my health. Though the drive home in a few minutes is a greater, more immediate threat.

Is DU part of the overall hazardous chemical coctail for some of the suffering vets?

Surely. But you cannot pin it down to one thing, one item.

We are learning all the time about long term consequences of our technology advances.

Anybody want to bet the Toyota Prius batteries will not considered an environmental disaster in 20 years?


User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 10, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 1382 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 8):
Uranium also makes a brilliant orange pottery glaze that was used by the Homer Laughlin Company in their Fiesta dinnerware. Of course you really don't want to use the stuff for that purpose any more.

Yes, quite right. Also, weirdly, IIRC, there was a "Twilight Zone" episode featuring someone so fascinated by the orange glaze that he was turned into it. But I was only a little boy then. Might have it confused with something else.

Quoting Dougloid (Reply 8):
Indeed. I'd never heard of this before. It gives the lie to the idea that Pu is a man made element. It appears that nature was busily cooking up her own. Musta got pretty hot down in there.

The Oklo structure seems to have operated intermittently over several million years, and would have produced visible steam rising out of the sand structure. Once the water was largely boiled off, the reaction would shutdown and the reactor would patiently wait for more water.

Pu would have been a waste product of the reaction for sure. One of the interesting things is that the Pu does not appear to have migrated very far in the sand. It must drive the anti-nuke crowd mad that nature seems to have contained waste fairly well, and without an environmental assessment, either !  Big grin

Actually, even absent this discovery, Pu does exist in nature as a transient decay product of natural U, but the lifetime of this isotope is pretty short, so it doesn't amount to much.

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 9):
Is DU part of the overall hazardous chemical coctail for some of the suffering vets?

Surely. But you cannot pin it down to one thing, one item.

 checkmark  Exactly. One more use of DU that very few are aware of was its' use in the flat black paint on the SR-71 reconnaissance a/c built by Lockheed. The idea was that some of the incoming radar energy would rocket around inside the uranium molecular structure (hexagonal) and get re-radiated into the slipstream as IR energy, thus slightly reducing the Blackbird's radar X-section. The addtional energy pumped into the IR part of the spectrum would have only a very small effect on the heat plume of the a/c.

I do not know for sure if this treatment was given to the SR-71's predecessor, the A-12, but suspect so.

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 9):
Anybody want to bet the Toyota Prius batteries will not considered an environmental disaster in 20 years?

I don't think most consumers are aware of a) the limited lifetime of these batteries -- although likely they will get better, b) the cost, and c) the environmental footprint building and disposing of these things poses. I have read that in a life cycle audit of the carbon footprint, a Hummer H2 comes out ahead of a Prius. Not sure how much stock to put into that.



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 1359 times:



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 10):
Yes, quite right. Also, weirdly, IIRC, there was a "Twilight Zone" episode featuring someone so fascinated by the orange glaze that he was turned into it. But I was only a little boy then. Might have it confused with something else.

Well, I've had a few pieces of it-all gone out of the house now-and I have seen silhouette pictures taken by putting sheet film and an object in a dark envelope and putting a blaze orange Fiesta dinner plate over it.

It is lovely stuff to look at but better viewed at a distance.

Come to think of it folks were pretty uninformed about radiation hazards generally in those days, particularly before war 2. There was the unfortunate case of the girls who painted watch dials with radium all getting cancer, and even in my day as a young kid there were fluoroscopes in every shoe store to show how your feet looked inside those Buster Browns. My mother attributed a lot of stuff to the bad effects of atomic fallout and Strontium 90 getting into the milk supply.

It is an interesting story about the natural reactors.


User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 12, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 1326 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 11):
Come to think of it folks were pretty uninformed about radiation hazards generally in those days, particularly before war 2. There was the unfortunate case of the girls who painted watch dials with radium all getting cancer, and even in my day as a young kid there were fluoroscopes in every shoe store to show how your feet looked inside those Buster Browns. My mother attributed a lot of stuff to the bad effects of atomic fallout and Strontium 90 getting into the milk supply.

Quite. There is a great deal of both ignorance and misunderstanding about radiation.

The planet is _naturally_ radioactive, and all our nuclear efforts over the past nearly century have only added an incremental amount. Uranium is actually fairly common (it's even in seawater), and thorium, less radioactive, is one of the most abundant elements on the planet. For example, it's quite prevalent in most granite/gneiss formations. So if you draw well-water from there and check it with a geiger counter, you'll find it's radioactive. Similarly the basement in your home, if it's concrete. It's the limestone, which has a small amount of radium in it. This in turns decays into radon gas, which is radioactive, and you would be breathing it in.

There are those out there who say flatly that _any_ amount of radioactivity is inherently bad and will ultimately cause cancer. OK, so if the planet is naturally radioactive, why is _any_ life here ? In the nuclear biz, for radiological protection, we have to deal with what is called the LNT theory (Linear No Threshold). This posits that radiation causes cell damage right down to microscopic levels -- surely refuted by the above observation. However, that is the position of ICRP - International Committee on radiological Protection - part of the International Atomic Energy Agency, itself an arm of the UN. It's like religion.

However, the best minds studying this topic think that any exposure under a cutoff point does not, to their observation, cause any measurable damage. I think (but am not certain, I don't look this up often) that it's about 5 rad (or the current equivalent), which is about 25 or so times what we're permitted to receive annually. If this business could operate with protection limits on that order, it would save _billions_ annually. But like I said, it's like religion.

More on the current thinking about LNT and other possibilities here:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 1293 times:



Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 12):
The planet is _naturally_ radioactive, and all our nuclear efforts over the past nearly century have only added an incremental amount. Uranium is actually fairly common (it's even in seawater), and thorium, less radioactive, is one of the most abundant elements on the planet. For example, it's quite prevalent in most granite/gneiss formations. So if you draw well-water from there and check it with a geiger counter, you'll find it's radioactive. Similarly the basement in your home, if it's concrete. It's the limestone, which has a small amount of radium in it. This in turns decays into radon gas, which is radioactive, and you would be breathing it in

The radon test is pretty much standard issue these days in home buying.

I spent a couple of happy hours reading about Oklo and how it was discovered. Apparently a Japanese physicist had postulated the possiblilty that it could have happened, but what got people on the trail was routine analyses of ore from Oklo by the French which revealed an abnormally low level of U235. The reason they were doing the analysis was because of restrictions in place meant to prevent diversion of U235 to weapons programs, so when the level was low some eyebrows went up.

Apparently the reactor would fire up and run until it had boiled off the water, and then it'd shut itself off until enough groundwater trickled in to start the cycle again. This would run at 30 minutes on, 150 minutes off, for thousands and thousands of years.


User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6432 posts, RR: 54
Reply 14, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 1260 times:

It is (almost) as simple as this:

Depleted Uranium is very good for some purposes like...
- shielding off radio acitivity
- destroying tanks
- counter weights on Boeing 747 rudders, elevators and ailerons (+ many other planes)
- and a few other things.

Making it into powder and spreading it on strawberry fields is, however, a bad idea, just like with other heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium etc. Therefore we should never put our old batteries or fluorescend lights in the trash can, and of course never shoot lead bullets.

There are people out there talking for making wars "greener".

Me thinks that it was better to make them less frequent. And if wars are unavoidable, then at least make them faster.

That's my oppinion, at least until violence goes out of fashion on planet Earth, or all weapon types can be exchanged with totally healthy and non-lethal weapons.

PS:
I have heard that newer versions of many planes (including the 747) use tungsten instead of depleted uranium. It is much more expensive, and somewhat less efficient. But it has an advantage every time a 747 crashes to dust on a strawberry field.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
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