Thursday, January 05, 2006


Depleted Uranium

Let's look at some facts on DU...
DU is nuclear waste, created when natural uranium is enriched to make nuclear weapons. It has a half life of 4.5 billion years. It's used in bullets, missiles and bombs because it self sharpens as it penetrates the targt and burns on impact. The term "depleted" is misleading because "depleted" does not in any way mean "safe". In fact it is only depleted of two isotopes. (U234 and U235). The two isotopes that are "depleted" constitute less than one per cent of total uranium. DU also contains extremely radioactive particles gained during the enrichment process.
As DU breaks down it gives off Alpha, Beta and Gamma particles. And I can hear you say AHA! NOT DANGEROUS. Well, not normally as the Alpha and Beta particles can usually be stopped by adequate clothing. However, if, as in the case of a desert region where the wind picks up or the tailings affecting my parent's home where water leeches these particles out into the environment AND THEY ARE INGESTED..some of them hang around the body, break down DNA and wreak havoc.
Yes, a large proportion are excreted, but some are not.
Also when DU is made into weapons, and those weapons explode into tiny ceramic particles that they are so famous for...they become a toxic aerosol that spreads for kilometres.
Soldiers and civillians in war torn areas are more at risk because of a factor called "Second Event". If they were only exposed once to radiation their cells might be able to repair themselves. But if they are exposed twice or more in a space of 8 - 10 hours they're basically screwed because the cells don't have sufficient time to repair the bonds between molecules, which the radiation breaks, and so degenerate into diseased tissue.
The US itself sets a limit of 5rem per year for external exposure and 50 rem a year for inhalation exposure. Just as a matter of interest some 7,931,000,000 rem a year contaminates cities like Basra and Baghdad.

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