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Depleted Uranium In Boeing 747?  
User currently offlineBjornstrom From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 329 posts, RR: 1
Posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 27310 times:

I found this article that states that Boeing 747's are carrying around a lot of depleted uranium in its structure:

"Counterweights are used in the aerodynamic controls of planes, rockets, and helicopters to maintain the aircraft's center of gravity. Heavy density is important in keeping the counterweight small in comparison with airfoil steering surfaces. DU is very appropriate for this kind of application, and uranium counterweights are used in many civil and military aircraft. The report mentions as an example the Boeing 747, a plane which, according to its supplier, contains 1500 kg of DU as a standard amount."

http://www10.antenna.nl/wise/index.h....antenna.nl/wise/463-464/4609.html

Is this true? Is the uranium radioactive by any substantial amounts?


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72 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10511 posts, RR: 64
Reply 1, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 27323 times:

Depleted uranium is toxic to handle, which is probably a bigger concern than low radiation levels. Density is not that much higher than lead, but the toxicity is a lot higher. I'm not asserting that this report is false, but I'm very skeptical.

User currently offlineBjornstrom From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 329 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 27267 times:

I am aware that M1 and Leopard 2 MBT:s use APFSDSDU [Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarded Sabot Depleted Uranium] or Sabot ammunition. But it requires special handling when loading and using these rounds.


Eurobonus Gold | BMI Gold | http://my.flightmemory.com/bjornstrom/
User currently offlineRichardPrice From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 27246 times:

Yes its true, there are uranium weights in a lot of aircraft and there have been 'issues' where these weights have been missing after crashes.

They are slightly radioactive, but not hugely so, you could not get a fatal dose from these weights unless they were aerosoled - the worst damage would come if you swallowed some (its a poison as well), or you got bashed over the head with some.

The weights are contained in sealed units, so its hard for them to pose a risk in normal usage, only in crashes.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/593649.stm

[Edited 2006-05-17 10:26:58]

User currently offline3MilesToWRO From Poland, joined Mar 2006, 280 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 27205 times:

Quoting Zvezda (Reply 1):
uranium is toxic

Are you sure? Plutonium certainly is, but I think I've never heard U is significantly toxic.


User currently offlinePtrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3904 posts, RR: 19
Reply 5, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 27184 times:

Illnesses in Amsterdam following the 1992 El Al 747 crash have been related to depleted uranium.

Quote from the NRC newspaper:
The crashed aircraft had several hunders of kilos of depleted uranium in its tail section as a counterweight, of which 192 kg has not been found.

Its use in that aircraft is considered a fact here.

Apparently the Dutch CAA was informed by the FAA in 1985 about the risks of depleted uranium (used in aircraft parts, obviously). A Dutch minister said that the FAA document did not say which specific aircraft in the world still used such parts.

So hopefully it's on the way out.

Peter



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlineANother From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 27101 times:

Quoting Ptrjong (Reply 5):
So hopefully it's on the way out.

According to the BBC news link above:

Quote:
A Boeing spokesman told BBC News Online: "The company began using DU in the early 1960s. Boeing replaced it with tungsten in the early 1980s, on grounds of cost and availability.


User currently offlineJetmek319 From Germany, joined Sep 2003, 199 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 27093 times:

The elevator counterweights on the B727 are also depleted uranium. Depleted uranium is not toxic (unsless you ingest or breathe in the dust after machining) nor is it dangerously radioactive. There are far more toxic items on the aircraft than the depleted uranium, like the berylium used in various bushings (also on the way out) and some of the PCB's in circuit boards (also being phased out).


Never, ever moon a werewolf !!
User currently offlineGlom From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2005, 2815 posts, RR: 10
Reply 8, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 26960 times:

Quoting Bjornstrom (Thread starter):
Is the uranium radioactive by any substantial amounts?

No. Uranium-238 has a half life the age of the planet. It has a very low specific activity.

It doesn't get along well with the kidneys though chemically.

But at the end of the day, chemical and radiological toxicity together are not particularly intimidating. There are plenty of materials far worth worrying about, such as the paint.


User currently offlineZkpilot From New Zealand, joined Mar 2006, 4801 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 26940 times:

short answer is yes.... it has been used in commercial aircraft such as the 747.


56 types. 38 countries. 24 airlines.
User currently offlineMiamiair From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 26939 times:

DC-10 has it as well in the rudder and elevator weights. Berrylium is just as toxic (Inhaling dust from machining operations) to you and that is used in the aviation industry as well.

User currently offlineBjornstrom From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 329 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 26895 times:

You learn something new every day on a.net - thanks all!  Smile


Eurobonus Gold | BMI Gold | http://my.flightmemory.com/bjornstrom/
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 12, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 26659 times:

I did not know about depleted uranium, but I guess every little bit helps. Many years ago I discovered that the sintering process was developed in WWII specifically to produce more dense counter-balance weights made out of tungsten - the problem being that the high melting point of tungsten made it difficult to melt using the methods developed for metals with a lower melting point. I always liked the phrase in a mineralogy text that went "due to its high specific gravity, tungsten is used to save weight in airplanes".

User currently offlineSeanp11 From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 290 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 26547 times:

Quoting Glom (Reply 8):
But at the end of the day, chemical and radiological toxicity together are not particularly intimidating. There are plenty of materials far worth worrying about, such as the paint.

Yep, you'll get exposed to much more radiation simply from being at cruise altitude. You'll get exposed to more radiation by being out in the sun. U is a primarily alpha emitter, and alpha particles can be stopped by heavy paper or your epidermis. Properly encased DU poses a very little threat.

and here's what wikipedia had to say about the use of DU as an aircraft counterweight:

Quote:
Aircraft may also contain depleted uranium trim weights (a Boeing 747 may contain 400 to 1,500 kg). This application of DU is controversial. If an aircraft crashes there is concern that the uranium would enter the environment: the metal can oxidise to a fine powder in a fire. While arguably other hazardous materials released from a burning commercial aircraft overshadow the contributions made by DU, its use has been phased out in many newer aircraft, Both Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas discontinued using DU counterweights in the 1980s.

It is also thought that the use of DU munitions during the gulf war may have something to do with the gulf war syndrome. But that's a completely different case.


User currently offlinePavlin From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 26519 times:

DU is not used anymore in commercial airplanes.Newer and expensive materials are used instead. Only early 747 (not 747-400) used it. 1.5 ton of it. That is a lot. Considering that composite 787 will be only 15 tonnes lighter than Al-LI A350

User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 26454 times:

Quoting Miamiair (Reply 10):
DC-10 has it as well in the rudder and elevator weights. Berrylium is just as toxic (Inhaling dust from machining operations) to you and that is used in the aviation industry as well.

An interesting story. I never heard it mentioned at the mandatory safety training I underwent as a Douglas employee.

Here's a good article on the subject.

http://www.aeronautics.ru/archive/du-watch/us_gov_about_du.htm


User currently offlineBoeing767mech From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 1025 posts, RR: 3
Reply 16, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 26085 times:

The stab on the CV880 had big piece of Depleted Uranium on the tips for counter weights.

David



Never under-estimate the predictably of stupidty
User currently offlineTjc2 From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2006, 141 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 25998 times:

Quoting Ptrjong (Reply 5):
The crashed aircraft had several hunders of kilos of depleted uranium in its tail section as a counterweight, of which 192 kg has not been found.

Surely some could well have been destroyed in the crash?



The only time I made a mistake was when I thought I was wrong...
User currently offlineFlyinTLow From Germany, joined Oct 2004, 519 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 25615 times:

Maybe this is a rather stupid question in here: but how uneconomical is it to put 1.5 tons of useless weight into an aircraft structure? That's already almost 1% of the aircrafts empty weight (747-100). You would think engineers could do better than use that much weight just to balance the whole thing.....

But yes, have to admitt, this is new to me as well!



- When dreams take flight, follow them -
User currently offlineRdwelch From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 25497 times:

Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 3):
or you got bashed over the head with some.

Well, you've got that too.


User currently offlineFLY2HMO From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 25217 times:

Quoting Bjornstrom (Thread starter):
Is this true? Is the uranium radioactive by any substantial amounts?

Like mentioned above, a sheet of paper would be enough to block the radiation.

Americium is slightly radioactive and it's been used harmlessly for years in residential smoke detectors.


User currently offlinePtrjong From Netherlands, joined Mar 2005, 3904 posts, RR: 19
Reply 21, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 25183 times:

Quoting Boeing767mech (Reply 16):
Surely some could well have been destroyed in the crash?

Yes, the stuff burns, and that is when its gets dangerous to your health, according to the article I was quoting.

The El Al 747 crashed into an apartment block.



The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad (Salvador Dali)
User currently offlineAM744 From Mexico, joined Jun 2001, 1773 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 25104 times:

Quoting Miamiair (Reply 10):
DC-10 has it as well in the rudder and elevator weights. Berrylium is just as toxic (Inhaling dust from machining operations) to you and that is used in the aviation industry as well.



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 15):
An interesting story. I never heard it mentioned at the mandatory safety training I underwent as a Douglas employee.

Aquaintace of mine who worked on AM's DC-10s confirm this.


User currently offlineRichardPrice From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 25014 times:

Quoting FlyinTLow (Reply 18):
Maybe this is a rather stupid question in here: but how uneconomical is it to put 1.5 tons of useless weight into an aircraft structure

Very, but sometimes theres absolutely nothing else you can put up there to act as the counterweight. Fuel gets depleted, so it cant be used, electronics arent heavy enough, cargo ... no. Bulking up the structure to act as its own counterweight will probably make the airframe less aerodynamically efficient in the process, so you end up shoving some very dense metal in places, fitting them in any small hole that is free.


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 16991 posts, RR: 67
Reply 24, posted (8 years 2 months 1 week 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 24948 times:

Quoting Bjornstrom (Thread starter):
Is this true? Is the uranium radioactive by any substantial amounts?



Quoting RichardPrice (Reply 3):
They are slightly radioactive, but not hugely so, you could not get a fatal dose from these weights unless they were aerosoled - the worst damage would come if you swallowed some (its a poison as well), or you got bashed over the head with some.

Interestingly, coal is mildly radioactive. In large quantities it's bad for the environment. So much for "clean coal" and other bedtime stories. In fact, lots of things are radioactive, including the glowing dial hands in watches (that's how they glow).



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
25 MrChips : Guys, counterweights are not "useless" weight at all. In fact, they are a necessity in most aircraft designs. In the 1950s and 1960s, most manufactur
26 474218 : Right on. Depleted Uranium (DU) has a negligible amount of residual radiation and providing the protective coatings (cad plate, primer and top coat)
27 Sfomb67 : The counterweights on the 742 upper rudder were depleted uranium, and marked with "warnings" about handling. The lower rudder wasn't a balanced surfa
28 VC-10 : From the 747-400 MM Chapt 55-20-00 Pb 201:- Some balance weights are made from depleted uranium, which is naturally occuring uranium that has been "d
29 Tom12 : I think it is more the Radio active effect people are worried about, Skin is enough to block the toxin from DU. The Radio Active effect of DU is 40%
30 Prebennorholm : Not a stupid question at all. But in fact those very heavy metals are used to in order to reduce the empty weight of the plane. If a lighter metal su
31 SlamClick : I also remember reading once that (at that time) turbine engine ingnitor-exciters had a small amount of slightly radioactive material. Anyone know any
32 Post contains links VC-10 : See http://www.airliners.net/discussions/tech_ops/read.main/153272/
33 Post contains links DrDeke : I apologize if this is a bit off-topic, but aren't at least some of the emergency exit signs used on planes powered by nuclear decay from tritium? The
34 Post contains links Bobster2 : Yes. Both planes that hit the World Trade Center had tritium, and tritium contamination was subsequently found in WTC sewage and basement. The levels
35 A/c train : they make good rivet blocks though !!
36 474218 : Please explain this statement?
37 Gary2880 : scary indeed i always did wonder how they made the tail section glow in the dark.
38 MrChips : What? They use lights for that - uranium, even highly enriched U235, is not able to "glow" on it's own - contrary to what you see on TV, there are ve
39 A/c train : 474218, use it too react rivets, it weighs alot and will form a good rivet. Dont ask me how too machine it though I was just given a couple, they look
40 Post contains images Gary2880 : maybe techops isn't the best place for sarcasm, ill move along
41 Ba97 : Which aircraft were the first to stop having DU put in as weights- I expect the signs are still tritium. Was there an aircraft size below which it ser
42 Post contains images David L : And there was me about to say the logo lights switch simply slides a lead shield to and fro across the uranium. Lucky I didn't.
43 474218 : That's what I thought you meant (in the States we call them bucking bars, used to buck rivets). The problem, while Depleted Uranium is heavy it is al
44 Post contains links Seanp11 : I think the myth that all radioactive substances glow in the dark comes from a real phenonemon, called cherenkov radiation. Pretty much, what you hav
45 Bobster2 : The first 550 747's had DU. That's about it. I don't think there are any other commercial aircraft using DU. DU was used because it was essentially a
46 A/c train : 474218 are you kidding ? are you sure its not just sealant marking your blocks ?!! done a fair few structures jobs with the set I have, not going to u
47 474218 : There was over 500 pounds of DU counterweights on every L-1011 built. Tungsten was offered as a spears replacements only. I never made any blocks out
48 Bobster2 : I was wrong about the early 747's being the only planes with DU. There were two others, L-1011 and DC-10. This data was published by NRC in 1999: Use
49 KC135TopBoom : " target=_blank>http://www.aeronautics.ru/archive/du...u.htm I wouldn't call it "good", because it is so one sided. It is true that you can be exposed
50 474218 : Back in the L-1011 production days we had a stock room clerk that deathly afraid of the counterweights. So one day we taped a 1/4 pound incremental w
51 Post contains images KC135TopBoom : LOL
52 MD11Engineer : A/C Train, You probably used tungsten counterweights as bucking bars. They make great bucking bars, since they are not just very dense, but also quit
53 PolymerPlane : Is there any particular reason why they use depleted uranium instead of say steel or other type of metal. I read above that DU is denser than lead for
54 Starlionblue : Volumetrically as a whole no. But we're talking volumetrically for a smaller part of the aircraft. Say you want to put the weight as far forward as p
55 Prebennorholm : I am almost sure that some forty years ago I read that Convair 990 was the first commercial transport plane to use DU balance weights. Maybe only on
56 Bobster2 : You are probably correct. The civilian use of DU was first authorized in 1960 and the Convair 990 was built in 1961. So at least the dates make sense
57 Post contains links Baroque : That sort of part answers my earlier question. I know density of the counterweights is critical because it allows these weights to be on a longer arm
58 hagiograph : Is it just U.S. manufacturers that use depleted uranium as ballast on their aircraft or do manufacturers like Airbus also use it?
59 NoUFO : Yes, it is.; Plutonium is by far more toxic, though. That is one reason why Bundeswehr does not use depleted uranium anymore but tungsten (or a tungs
60 tdscanuck : Anybody can use it, few do anymore. You guys do realize this thread died 5 years ago, yes? Tom.
61 474218 : I am always amazed at how mis-under stood depleted uranium is: If it is not corroded to the point where it is flaking off and if you don't drill, fil
62 Baroque : Good for a paper weight unless you happen to have a pyromaniac in the house!
63 tdscanuck : Like asbestos...nasty to handle in manufacture but, once in the finished product, totally harmless as long as you don't free it. I used to work on a
64 Post contains images DocLightning : Agreed. But... much of my career revolves around dealing with what happens when people manage to do the "as long as you don't" things either by accid
65 sweair : Uranium ore in the ground is about as radioactive as U238. Granite in Sweden is radioactive, no one has ever died from having granite in the kitchen.
66 Viscount724 : How did you even find the thread to resurrect it? I've always been curious about that.
67 aklrno : U certainly is toxic, as are all the heavy metals IIRC, but it can be fairly safe if it is in a form that doesn't get inside you. It was commonly used
68 sweair : If people would know how much radiation they encounter every second of life. Radiation is natural on this planet and in this universe. No one is worri
69 Starlionblue : Or about standing next to a pile of coal...
70 DocLightning : Referred here from a threat where someone suggested removing the DU from the 747 as a weight-saving measure. That's because most of it *is* U238.
71 sweair : Yeah I know, I was trying to play down the scaremongering going on. People have an uneducated fear of radiation thanks to green peace and such moveme
72 DocLightning : There is a theory (admittedly mostly discredited) called "hormesis" that low-levels of radiation might actually DECREASE DNA damage by stimulating DN
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