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Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:25 am
by 889091
Rather than resurrecting a 14 year old thread, I thought I'd start a new one.

Back then, there were still quite a few 742/742F flying around. Nowadays, not so much.

Question
Do the counterweights need 'special' handling when a 742 is scrapped? The old thread stated that as long as the protective coatings on the DU counterweights are left intact, it is OK (see post #27 in the old thread below). From all the pics/videos of aircraft scrappings that I have seen, a large excavator with a jackhammer/nibbler attachment just goes gung-ho on the aircraft and chops up everything that's in its way.

Aren't the relevant authorities concerned that the DU counterweights can be ground up to build a 'dirty bomb'?

Old thread:
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=749459

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:48 am
by Starlionblue
AFAIK, depleted uranium is not dangerous unless it is concentrated in rather large quantities. It won't do much good in a dirty bomb.

https://www.world-nuclear.org/informati ... anium.aspx

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 1:55 pm
by Dalmd88
DU counterweights were common in a few aircraft of that era. The disposed of DU chunks were real popular with aircraft sheetmetal mechanics for use as rivet bucking bars. That is until it was suspected that the hammering on the bars would give off a poisonous dust. At our hangar in ATL Delta made people give them up so they could be disposed of. I guess they were easy to find. The NDT inspection team was able to detect them in mechanics tool boxes with their radiography monitors.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 6:09 pm
by kalvado
Starlionblue wrote:
AFAIK, depleted uranium is not dangerous unless it is concentrated in rather large quantities. It won't do much good in a dirty bomb.

https://www.world-nuclear.org/informati ... anium.aspx

My understanding is that it is chemically poisonous, not radiation hazard.
It has enough radioactivity to trigger sensors (so do smoke detectors), but health effects are from trivial poisoning, sort of the same thing as mercury.
When chemically and mechanically bound, it is pretty safe - with coating on a metal bar, or as uranium glass glassware (plenty of that on e-bay!)

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 10:53 pm
by DocLightning
kalvado wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
AFAIK, depleted uranium is not dangerous unless it is concentrated in rather large quantities. It won't do much good in a dirty bomb.

https://www.world-nuclear.org/informati ... anium.aspx

My understanding is that it is chemically poisonous, not radiation hazard.


:checkmark: Aside from the radioactivity (which is not an issue with DU), uranium is still a heavy metal and it is quite poisonous.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:03 pm
by Starlionblue
DocLightning wrote:
kalvado wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
AFAIK, depleted uranium is not dangerous unless it is concentrated in rather large quantities. It won't do much good in a dirty bomb.

https://www.world-nuclear.org/informati ... anium.aspx

My understanding is that it is chemically poisonous, not radiation hazard.


:checkmark: Aside from the radioactivity (which is not an issue with DU), uranium is still a heavy metal and it is quite poisonous.


Got it.

So if you added it to a bomb and detonated, this would spread out the nasty stuff, which would become less hazardous due to smaller concentrations?

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:14 pm
by DocLightning
Starlionblue wrote:
DocLightning wrote:
kalvado wrote:
My understanding is that it is chemically poisonous, not radiation hazard.


:checkmark: Aside from the radioactivity (which is not an issue with DU), uranium is still a heavy metal and it is quite poisonous.


Got it.

So if you added it to a bomb and detonated, this would spread out the nasty stuff, which would become less hazardous due to smaller concentrations?


I don't know exactly what levels are toxic, but it would be pretty nasty. It's far more toxic than lead.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 11:17 pm
by kalvado
Starlionblue wrote:
DocLightning wrote:
kalvado wrote:
My understanding is that it is chemically poisonous, not radiation hazard.


:checkmark: Aside from the radioactivity (which is not an issue with DU), uranium is still a heavy metal and it is quite poisonous.


Got it.

So if you added it to a bomb and detonated, this would spread out the nasty stuff, which would become less hazardous due to smaller concentrations?

There were quite a few DU munitions used in former Yugoslavia, and rumor is there is a severe increase of birth defects in the area. No, I don't have a trustworthy source for that.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Sat May 09, 2020 1:13 pm
by Dalmd88
kalvado wrote:
Starlionblue wrote:
DocLightning wrote:

:checkmark: Aside from the radioactivity (which is not an issue with DU), uranium is still a heavy metal and it is quite poisonous.


Got it.

So if you added it to a bomb and detonated, this would spread out the nasty stuff, which would become less hazardous due to smaller concentrations?

There were quite a few DU munitions used in former Yugoslavia, and rumor is there is a severe increase of birth defects in the area. No, I don't have a trustworthy source for that.

I think the A-10 fired a DU round also. It was a really heavy round for it's size.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Sat May 09, 2020 4:13 pm
by DocLightning
kalvado wrote:
munitions used in former Yugoslavia, and rumor is there is a severe increase of birth defects in the area. No, I don't have a trustworthy source for that.


I'm no toxicologist but I guess uranium is of course pretty toxic, but it's the uranium salts like uranium pentafluoride are especially toxic. At least that was my cursory read on the topic.

If someone else knows better, I'm happy to take an education on the topic.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Sat May 09, 2020 4:21 pm
by kalvado
DocLightning wrote:
kalvado wrote:
munitions used in former Yugoslavia, and rumor is there is a severe increase of birth defects in the area. No, I don't have a trustworthy source for that.


I'm no toxicologist but I guess uranium is of course pretty toxic, but it's the uranium salts like uranium pentafluoride are especially toxic. At least that was my cursory read on the topic.

If someone else knows better, I'm happy to take an education on the topic.

Effectively group 3... Should be fairly active metal, oxidizing in air and moisture and reacting with any acid, including stomach HCl. I would expect bioavailability to be much higher than anyone would want from a heavy metal

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Wed May 13, 2020 4:13 am
by TheWorm123
There was a Nat Geo documentary about 12-13 years ago showing the full scrapping process of a retired 747 and I remember that they detailed the process of removing the counterweights, if you can find that documentary it will give you more information.

Re: Scrapping of Aircraft with Depleted Uranium Counterweights

Posted: Fri May 15, 2020 8:05 pm
by bhill
Here is a link to a SA article about two of the elements used in AP rounds....300 tons was an eye opener to me...

https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... he-silver/