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smoke screens

by bush is an insane clown Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2006 at 11:47 PM

breathe deep, the gathering gloom..

Blowing Smoke

LANL is Sending Deadly Depleted Uranium into the Air We Breathe

A Special Report for Sun Monthly by Marilyn Gayle Hoff

Back in 1943, a memo to Manhattan Project''s General Leslie Groves from Drs.

Conant, Compton and Urey extolled the lethal possibilities of radioactive

materials ""as a Gas Warfare Instrument. The material . . . ground into

particles of microscopic size and . . . distributed in the form of a dust or

smoke or dissolved in liquid, by ground-fired projectiles, land vehicles,

airplanes, or aerial bombs . . . would be inhaled by personnel. The amounts

necessary to cause death to a person inhaling the material is extremely


Incubating well before the first nuclear weapon exploded, this old dream of

radiological weapons -- weapons that kill or harm by means of radiation --

is now a full-blown reality wherever munitions made of depleted uranium (DU)

catch fire. DU munitions now proliferate in the U.S. arsenal. Bullets or

bombs made of DU range in size from 20 millimeters (7/8-inch diameter) to

120 millimeters (10-inch diameter), a variety obviously intended for diverse


""Depleted uranium has contaminated the Earth and global atmosphere,"" said

Leuren Moret, a whistle-blower formerly of Laurence Livermore National

Laboratory. She added up 340 tons of DU exploded in the first Gulf War; an

undisclosed amount reducing targets in Bosnia and Kosovo to radioactive

rubble; 1,000 tons bestowed upon Afghanistan; and as of 2004, before U.S.

bombing intensified and vastly ballooned the total, well over 2,000 tons

decimating Iraq.

But on its way to nailing U.S. ambitions abroad, DU needs to be stored,

designed, manufactured, and tested here at home. Discounted Casualties, a

book by Japanese journalist Akira Tashiro, listed 26 American states housing

DU firing ranges, DU weapon factories and/or DU storage facilities. Three in

New Mexico -- Sandia Lab in Albuquerque, the Energetic Metals Research Test

Center (EMRTC) three kilometers from Socorro, and Los Alamos National

Laboratory (LANL) within sight of Santa Fe -- were listed as

research-and-development and test-firing sites for DU weapons, exploded in

the open air. The EMRTC at Socorro admitted it used about 40 tons of DU

between 1972 (the start of DU testing) and 1993. Until very recently the

uses of DU at Los Alamos have escaped public notice.

DU Is an Extremely Effective Weapon

After the first Gulf War, Doug Rokke, with 35 years of military experience

and a PhD in health physics, was dispatched to the Middle East as a U.S.

army contamination expert in charge of Gulf War I uranium cleanup. He spoke

of his tour of duty in an interview titled ""The War Against

Ourselves"":""DU is an extremely effective weapon. Each tank round is 10

pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated with plutonium, neptunium,

americium . . . generating intense heat on impact. When uranium munitions

hit, it''s like a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure, and so we saw

tremendous burns, tremendous injuries. It was devastating.""

If contaminated with plutonium, neptunium and americium, the uranium in

munitions is not technically DU. Transuranic elements like plutonium occur

almost never in nature and are born chiefly in nuclear reactors. From this

deadly radioactive spent reactor fuel also comes uranium for munitions,

flavored with its extreme contaminants. Straight from the mines, natural

uranium has likewise gone into munitions. Public-relations-minded military

brass nonetheless call all uranium munitions ""depleted.""

DU consists entirely of uranium, chiefly the isotope U-238. It is

""depleted"" during a process called ""enrichment,"" which extracts traces

of the more fissile isotope U-235 to make nuclear fuel rods and, originally,

A-bombs. The DU remainder is 99.8 percent U-238. Natural uranium is 99.3

percent, half of a percent difference. The United States stores a million

unquiet tons of DU ""waste,"" gives it away free to U.S. munitions makers,

and peddles it around the world.

Uranium is pyrophoric, meaning spontaneously combustible. Put pure uranium

powder on a sunny Phoenix pavement some July afternoon and it will burst

into flames. It is 1.7 times denser than lead. Its zero-sum price tag and

self-sharpening combustibility persuaded the generals to choose depleted

uranium over equally dense tungsten for munitions purportedly limited to

penetrating tank and bunker armor. At this task DU artillery fire has no

peers, burning neat holes through tank armor and incinerating all within.

DU is shot from the 120 millimeter barrels of tank guns, from A-10 Warthog

airplanes and from unrevealed smaller weapons. The munitions are shaped like

bottles, the shell fatter than the bullet, to keep the DU from touching the

barrel as it shoots out. Friction of a DU bullet against its barrel could

explode the weapon.

Fine aerosols of uranium oxides and nitrides form when DU weapons ignite,

since flaming uranium also bonds with atmospheric nitrogen. About 33 percent

of DU dust is soluble. What becomes of these incinerated aerosols

indefinitely suspended in the atmosphere, spread by wind or, if

precipitated, borne by water, sunk to groundwater, or stirred up again by

wind, footsteps and wheels? Asaf Durakovic, of the Uranium Medical Research

Center in Canada, wrote: ""There is no existing study measuring the distance

traveled by such particles."" To avoid studies, which would provide real

answers to these questions, nuclear promoters embrace ""models.""

Smoke Screens

Last summer a report in the July 15 Taos Horsefly stated that Los Alamos

National Laboratory is permitted to burn, per year, three-fourths ton of

depleted uranium (DU) in the open air and tempered this shocking news with

the soothing information, based on a model, that smoke from such

conflagrations would travel only 50 meters.

Models are computer programs, built within parameters that reflect the

careful choosing of which data to consider or stress and which to ignore or

downplay. Model makers who wish to lullaby the populace can select their

parameters accordingly, like the model that reckoned the deaths and

illnesses caused by Chernobyl to be statistically insignificant when seen as

a percentage of the total world population.

Thus a postfire risk-assessment model professed to study the distance smoke

would travel from a fire, while its parameters excluded how the fierce,

shifty, spring winds whipping the Cerro Grande forest fire through Los

Alamos in 2000 actually did blow smoke, pollutants and particulates 55 miles

northeast to Taos -- one of many affected communities snubbed by its

calculations. Models can disregard how residents of LANL''s neighbor San

Ildefonso Pueblo are forbidden to cut their own contaminated timber. And

stressing that an atom of uranium, a heavy metal, has the world''s biggest

naturally occurring nucleus, a model can conclude that particles of DU smoke

are too weighty to travel any farther than the length of my driveway.

According to whistle-blower Leuren Moret, ""There are too many variables to

consider in a model. It''s like statistics -- you can make it say anything

you want.""

Such DU dispersion models, said Moret, are ""not considering particle

size."" Flaming DU burns at 3,000 to 6,000 degrees Centigrade, producing ""a

large number of extremely small particles in the nanoparticle range."" A

nanoparticle is 0.001 microns, or a billionth of a meter. In the pull of

gravity, a particle so minute is as light as air. The particle remains

""suspended as atmospheric dust [unless] it is rained out, snowed out or

removed by moisture such as fog and deposited in the environment,"" said

Moret. ""This contaminates air, water, soil and food with ionizing

radiation, internally exposing all living things.""

To avoid litigation and bad-for-business publicity, the U.S. nuclear

industry dresses its activities up pretty, a strategy called ""greenwash.""

Nuke promoters tout DU cooking utensils and convert the badly contaminated,

decommissioned Rocky Flats plutonium processing site in Colorado into a

wildlife refuge playground. Even while generals deny carpeting Iraq and

Afghanistan with fine uranium dust, they rationalize that uranium is barely

radioactive and claim that its alpha radiation cannot harm us internally

because it can''t penetrate skin -- which means, explained retired Manhattan

Project and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory physicist Marion Fulk,

each alpha particle dumps its intense energy all at once into a tiny area,

making it ""very wicked."" Here the parameters of the generals'' model

exclude wounds and the human need to eat, drink and breathe. ""1.3 billion

people have been killed, maimed and diseased globally from the nuclear

weapons and nuclear power projects,"" said Moret.

The orchestrated campaign to downplay depleted uranium comes with shifting

themes: don''t mention depleted uranium; don''t acknowledge using depleted

uranium; acknowledge using it only to penetrate the armor of tanks and

bunkers; assert that the dust from exploded uranium falls down and goes

nowhere; imply that the ""depletion"" of uranium renders it harmless; never

mention that not all uranium munitions are depleted; stress that depleted

uranium, no big deal, is the least radioactive of all radioactive elements;

argue that since alpha radiation from DU can''t penetrate the skin, it can''

t harm the body; claim that any radioactive particles that do enter the body

will be swiftly expelled; never admit to any connection between exposure to

DU and illness, birth defects, death or Gulf War Syndrome, the infamous

malady afflicting veterans of Gulf War I.

""There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on

the environment,"" reads a post--Gulf War I report by LANL. ""Therefore, if

no one makes a case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU

rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus be deleted from the

arsenal. If DU penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat

activities, then we should assure their future existence . . . through

Service/DoD proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that

we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.""

British environmental writer Keith Parkins commented, ""It is not in the

interests of the military-industrial-complex to admit the link between Gulf

War Syndrome and depleted uranium, or to admit that those who were on the

battlefield will suffer long-term health effects, as to do so would be to

deny the use of the latest military toy."" Such an admission would also

throw open a floodgate of litigation.

I asked David Fuehne of LANL''s Environmental Stewardship Division if it was

true that LANL considers DU nonhazardous. On behalf of LANL he replied, ""A

given mass of DU is less radioactive than a similar mass of most radioactive

materials. The hazards of exposure of DU are primarily due to its chemical

toxicity. All heavy and dense materials, such as lead and uranium, can be

harmful if inhaled or ingested in significant quantities.""

Marion Fulk countered, ""U-238 radiates 12,600 disintegrations per second

per gram. Do you consider that safe? I don''t."" Beyond DU''s chemical and

radiological toxicity, Fulk said, ""the finely divided nanoparticles can

breech the cells, and when they enter the cell they will act as catalysts

for any reaction thermodynamically available to go downhill toward entropy.

It''s like putting the cells in a Waring blender -- you get the same

chemical composition, but no life.""

Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome

What else do the Americans want?"" spoke Sayed Gharib from Tora Bora,

Afghanistan. ""They killed us, they turned our newborns into horrific

deformations, and they turned our farm lands into graveyards, and destroyed

our homes. . . . we have nothing to lose.""

When asked if the United States and Britain were using DU in the post-9/11

war on Afghanistan, United Kingdom Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon told the

UK Parliament, ""It is not being used at present."" But a recent random

sampling of 17 geographically scattered Afghans by Dr. Asaf Durakovic

disputed this denial.

Durakovic is a former U.S. Army medical advisor, fired after he found

uranium in the urine of U.S. and Canadian Gulf War I veterans in 1999, seven

to nine years after exposure. In his recent study, the uranium he found in

Afghan subjects closely matched uranium from Afghan War bomb-attack craters.

He reported, ""The results were astounding: the [Afghan] donors presented

concentrations of toxic and radioactive uranium isotopes between 100 and 400

times greater than in the Gulf veterans tested in 1999.""

Symptoms suffered by these irradiated Afghans -- fatigue, serious

immunodeficiencies, kidney damage, leukemia, cancer, and on and on --

closely paralleled the so-called Gulf War Syndrome, a catastrophe that the

Pentagon strives to blame on oil fires, vaccinations, post-traumatic stress

disorder, and chemical and biological weapon releases, never mentioning DU.

In the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, fewer scapegoats compete with

DU for the toxic blame. And uranium in the urine nine years beyond exposure

disputes the mollifying claims by nuclear apologists that radionuclides

(radioactive substances) are swiftly expelled by the body.

As U.S. Army contamination expert Doug Rokke, who now battles serious health

problems, described his uranium cleanup operation, ""When we first got

assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started

getting sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, open

sores started almost immediately."" Nobody warned soldiers fighting in U.S.

invasions about the toxicity of DU weapons, and nobody warned or shielded

New Mexico village volunteer firefighters, who battled the Cerro Grande

forest fire close by LANL''s blazing DU firing ranges, even while the ranges

'' extreme contamination went up in smoke.

Of the 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, where only 148 died in

combat, 11,000 are now dead. ""By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on

Permanent Medical Disability,"" stated Arthur N. Bernklau, executive

director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York. Compare this 56

percent disability rate with the 10 percent disability rate for Vietnam

veterans poisoned by Agent Orange. Boosted by our present wars, the number

keeps growing. Terry Jamison from the Department of Veterans Affairs

recently reported that ""Gulf Era veterans"" on medical disability since

1991 number 518,739. Bernklau said, ""The long-term effects have revealed

that DU is a virtual death sentence.""

Depleted Uranium: There Is No Safe Dose

Depleted uranium"" is a handy moniker, useful for masking its ecocidal

talents, which the generals have always known full well. Witness this 1995

U.S. Army technical report: ""If depleted uranium enters the body, it has

the potentiality of causing serious medical consequences. The associated

risk is both chemical and radiological.""

The half-life of U-238 is the current age of Earth -- 4.5 billion years.

Half of what now exists will still be around 4.5 billion years hence.

Compared to its deadly radioactive offspring, some with half-lives of mere

minutes, it decays very slowly and transforms, element by element, through

many lethal radioactive steps before settling down as lead. Citing this poky

rate of decay, the generals publicly dismiss DU as nontoxic, even as they

downplay how much they use it.

But its virtual immortality means that once its particles camp out inside

your body, they and their radioactive decay progeny will steadily bombard

your cells with radiation forever. Doug Rokke said, ""A portion of this

stuff is soluble, which means it goes into the bloodstream and all of your

organs. The insoluble fraction stays -- in the lungs, for example. The

radiation damage and the particulates destroy the lungs.""

Consider a nanoparticle of insoluble uranium oxide, 1/10,000 the diameter of

a red blood cell. Small enough to elude the filtering celia in your air

passages, it can lodge in your deepest lung sacs. According to physicist

Marion Fulk, an average man inhales at least 100 billion nanoparticles per

day. The likelihood keeps growing that several or multitudes of those

particles will be uranium.

Scientist and radiation expert Dr. Rosalie Bertell testified, ""DU is a very

powerful alpha particle emitter, with each particle carrying a force of

about 4.2 MeV (million electron volts). It requires only 6 to 10 eV

(electron volts) to break the DNA or other large molecules in the body.""

""If you damage a cell, you''d better kill it,"" Fulk said to me. For if

just one alpha particle merely manages to deform just one cell still able to

reproduce, that cell could quit your body''s team, aspire to untrammeled

growth and become instead your parasite, your cancer. Such cell damage

arises from what the nuclear industry shrugs off as ""low level"" radiation.

Nuclear power opponent Dr. Judith Johnsrud wrote me, ""I am appalled that DU

would be incinerated anywhere. . . . Despite DOE and DoD attempts to claim

that depleted uranium is not hazardous to human health, I would have to

conclude that any alpha emitter which is inhaled (or ingested) and thus

becomes an internal emitter cannot help but pose a hazard. . . . Recent

research in the field of radiation microbiology has quite clearly

established that a single radiation track through a cell is enough to cause

a subsequent damage, including but not limited to cancer.""

""By any reasonable standard of biomedical proof,"" asserted molecular

biologist Dr. John W. Gofman, formerly of Lawrence Livermore Lab, ""there is

no safe dose.""

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 38 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
keeping in perspective Hex Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 6:43 AM
600% incease in "radon"? DU salesman Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 12:31 PM
he sells radioactive "magic rings" and jewelry - ha Hex Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 4:04 PM
Are you a geoscientist also, Whizz? Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 5:13 PM
My mistake Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 5:19 PM
nice "data" - nice "scientist" Hex Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 5:48 PM
TYPE of radiation (alpha particles) Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 5:54 PM
that loss of 50 X's more perspective is weak Hex Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 6:41 PM
compared to beta particles, X-rays or Gamma rays ? Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 7:06 PM
it's the first thread of mine ever hidden - and the last Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 8:39 PM
Where are the Urchin bits? johnk Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006 at 8:45 PM
nice "data" - nice "scientist" - WHAT?? by Bob Nichols, Project Censored Award Winner Friday, Apr. 14, 2006 at 2:29 AM
hide it first - ask questions later Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 12:45 AM
spam o rama Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 1:31 AM
I'm paid to cause global contamination by selling pottery Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 8:40 AM
pottery Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 8:50 AM
here's your global uranium oxide contamination Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 11:06 AM
600% incease in "radon"? Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 12:04 PM
scare tactics magic word = "aerosol" Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 12:22 PM
Again, the 'smoke' your blowing up our ass Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 12:48 PM
blowing Radon gas up our asses ? Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 1:48 PM
Weird? No, predictable, yes. Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 2:21 PM
the main problem is alpha measurements Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 2:40 PM
my (proxomitron's) mistake Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 3:16 PM
you're nuts, Hex Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 3:23 PM
I can see your nuts Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 3:35 PM
find the quote, Whizz. Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 3:49 PM
Our world is being poisoned with Uranium munitions Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 4:12 PM
*Still* waiting, Buzz Lips Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 4:24 PM
the rich buzz whizz paid agent is worried Hex Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 5:14 PM
better idea Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 15, 2006 at 9:31 PM

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