DU Depleted Uranium
By Richard E. Noble
I had heard of Depleted Uranium (DU) but I thought that it was basically harmless. It sounds harmless. It’s uranium but it’s “depleted.” Sounds kind of harmless to me. But wait until you hear what Mr. Rokke has to say about it. It not only doesn’t sound harmless, it sounds catastrophic.
First, what is DU?
Depleted Uranium is a metal. It is made from uranium hexafluoride which is the by-product of the uranium enrichment process. Uranium hexafluoride is the non-fissionable residue or by-product of the uranium enrichment process during which fissionable Uranium 235 and Uranium 234 are separated from natural uranium.
The fissionable products are used to make nuclear explosives and as fuel for nuclear power plants. They precipitate a chain reaction.
The non-fissionable uranium by-product DU is a radioactive waste material.
Depleted uranium is refined from Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) - from radioactive nuclear waste product. The United States Department of Energy has so much UF6 stored at various sites that any use that increases disposal of this waste product is welcome.
Natural uranium contains 99.2% by weight U-238 while DU contains 99.8% by weight U-238. Recent documents released by the U.S. Department of Energy provide evidence to suggest that a small proportion of other toxic heavy metals such as plutonium also may be present.
Plutonium is fissionable and is used in nuclear explosives.
DU is claimed not to be an external hazard (won’t burn the skin etc.). It is an internal hazard and with constant inhalation, ingestion and wound contamination poses significant and unacceptable risks - the alpha particle emissions (radiation) are not reduced but proportionally increased. Spent penetrators or parts of penetrators cannot be touched or picked up without protection.
A penetrator can be a bullet, missile, or a war head. The U.S. munitions industry produces the following DU munitions 7.62mm, 5Ocal., 20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 105mm, 120mm and other types.
DU is an ideal metal for use as kinetic energy penetrators (armor piercing), counterweights, and shielding or armor. High density and pyrophoric nature are the two most significant properties that guided its selection for use as a kinetic energy penetrator. DU is used to manufacture kinetic energy penetrators.
“DU is an extremely effective weapon,” Mr. Rokke explains. “Each tank round is 10 pounds of solid uranium – 238 contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, americium. It is pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank because of the heavy weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit, it is like a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure ... It is devastating.”
Besides the above uses DU has been proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy as a component of road and structural materials. All of these current or proposed uses are designed to reduce the huge U.S. Department of Energy stockpiles left over from the uranium enrichment process.
It seems that Mr. Rokke isn’t Mr. Rokke but Major Rokke. He has a Ph.D. in Health Physics and he was trained as a forensic scientist. He is a Vietnam and a Gulf War veteran. He has been in the Military Service for over 35 years and has a box full of awards and medals. Unfortunately he is now radioactive and dying.
“I was recalled to active duty in the U.S. Army and assigned to the U.S. Army Chemical School located at Fort McClellan, Alabama as the DU Project Director and tasked with developing training and management procedures. The project included a literature review; extensive curriculum development project involving representatives from all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense and representatives from England, Canada, Germany and Australia; and basic research at the Nevada Test Site located northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, to validate management procedures.”
Doug’s job during the Gulf War was to prepare soldiers to respond to nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. We all think of that first Gulf War in much the same light as Andrew Jackson’s encounter at the Battle of New Orleans. We beat the bloody Iraqis and sent them scattering back into the damn desert with hardly a blemish on our own side. Of course there were 760 immediate casualties with 294 dead and over 400 wounded but that’s not bad for a War. And Saddam didn’t blow off any nuclear or chemical or biological weapons, so everybody was safe. Right?
“The U.S. Military decided to blow up Saddam’s Chemical, and radiological stockpiles in place,” explained Major Rokke, “which released the contamination back on the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The chemical agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off all over the place. We had all the various nerve agents. We think there were biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor facilities. It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to the whole mess ... When we first got assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started getting sick within 72 hours ... It doesn’t take a long time ... We didn’t know anything about DU when the Gulf War started.
“As a warrior, you’re listening to your leaders, and they’re saying there are no health effects from DU. But, as we started to study this, to go back to what we learned in physics and our engineering - I was a professor of environmental science and engineering - you learn rapidly that what they are telling you doesn’t agree with what you know and observe ... In June of 1991, when I got back to the States, I was sick ... They didn’t do tests on me or my team members ... Any excretion level in the urine above 15 micrograms of uranium per day should result in immediate medical testing ... when you get up to 250 micrograms ... you’re supposed to be under continuous medical care ... I was director of the Depleted Uranium Project for the Department of Defense ... My excretion rate was approximately 1500 micrograms per day ... They didn’t tell me for two and a half years ... (symptoms of exposure to DU are) Fibromyalgia; Eye Cataracts from the radiation. When uranium impacts any type of vehicle or structure, uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the place. This can be breathed in or go into a wound. Once it gets into the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which means it goes into the blood stream and all of your organs. The insoluble fraction stays - in the lungs, for example. The radiation damage and the particulates destroy the lungs ... As the director of the Depleted Uranium Project, I developed a 40 hour block training. All that curriculum has been shelved. They turned what I wrote into a 20-minute program that’s full of distortions ... The equipment is defective. The General Accounting Office verified that the gas masks leak. Unbelievably, Defense Department officials recently said the defects can be fixed with duct tape
“The U.S. Army made me their expert. I went into the project with the total intent to ensure they could use uranium munitions in war, because I’m a warrior. What I saw as director of the project doing the research and working with my own medical conditions and everybody else’s, led me to one conclusion:
uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone, not just the U.S. or the Canadians or the British or the Germans, or the French but for the Americans of Vieques (testing site for DU weapons), for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa, of Scotland, of India, of Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.
“If you’re going to be sent into a toxic wasteland, and you know you are going to wear gas masks that leak and chemical protective suits that leak, and you’re not going to get any medical care after you’re exposed to all of these things, would you go? Suppose they gave a war and nobody came? You’ve got to start peace sometime...
“Religions say; ‘And a child will lead us to peace.’ But if we contaminate the environment, where will the child come from? The children won’t be there. War has become obsolete, because we can’t deal with the consequences on our warriors or the environment, but more important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war when the contamination and the health effects of war can’t be cleaned up because of the weapons you use, and medical care can’t be given to the soldiers who participated in the war on either side or to the civilians affected, then it is time for peace.”
Since the end of that “easy” victory, a couple of more Gulf War causalities have signed in at the office of Veteran Affairs. It seems that 221,000 soldiers have been awarded disability according to a report released on September 10, 2002. The causality rate for Gulf War #1 is now calculated at 30%. And Major Rokke says that his military ordered investigation has led him to the conclusion that anyone who may have been downwind of any uranium dust, or working around uranium contamination or within a vehicle, structure, or building that was struck with uranium munitions should be seeking care.
The problem is two fold. Not only did we blow up any building or storehouse in which the enemy might have stored something hazardous, we used our own uranium missiles and bombs to blow them up. So if you were a soldier anywhere in the vicinity of any such explosion; or even if you were assigned to clean up after such an explosion you may be in store or already suffering from any of the following: Reactive airway disease, Neurological abnormalities, Kidney stones and chronic kidney pain, Rashes, Vision degradation and night vision losses, Gum tissue problems, Lymphoma, Various forms of skin and organ cancer, Neuro-psychological disorders, Uranium in semen, Sexual dysfunction and birth defects in offspring.
For those not in the military it is interesting to note that adverse health effects of this nature have been documented in employees of and residents living near Puducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington. Also employees at uranium manufacturing or processing facilities in New York, Tennessee and the four corner’s area of southwest Colorado have reported similar health effects.
But, no need to worry, despite all these findings the United States and NATO officials continue to state that there are no known adverse health effects form DU exposure.
Major Rokke has this to say about that: “If you do not provide medical assessment for those with verified exposures and health problems then you can say DU did not cause any adverse health problems. So much for medical science when a cover up is directed by politicians to limit liability for non combatants, warriors, and others.”
As you may readily understand Major Rokke, besides being one of the untreated walking wounded and infected, is also persona non-grata in military circles these days. He is at present urinating and excreting large proportions of radioactive materials. “It is impossible to get proper care and treatment,” says Major Rokke. Several of his old buddies who served with him in his Military mandated DU clean-ups and investigations are already dead.
In the Balkans they are referring to these symptoms as the “Bosnian Crud”.
So far according to major Rokke medical care has not been provided to all DU casualties; environmental remediation has not been completed; DU contamination and damaged equipment and materials have been recycled to manufacture new products; DU training and education has only been partially implemented; DU contamination management procedures have not been distributed.
What should happen next? Mr. Rokke says that the international community and all of the world must raise a unified voice in opposition to future use of Depleted Uranium munitions and force those nations that have used depleted uranium munitions to recognize the immoral consequences of their actions and assume responsibility for medical care and thorough environmental remediation. Specifically: Depleted uranium munitions and the use of depleted uranium must be banned; all individuals who were exposed or who may have been exposed to any form of depleted uranium and its various integral contaminants or other contaminants created during combat, research, or training activities must receive a thorough physical examination and medical care to alleviate or cure the physiological consequences caused by inhalation, ingestion, or uranium wound contamination; all depleted uranium penetrator fragments, depleted uranium contaminated equipment, and depleted uranium oxide contamination must be cleaned up and disposed of at secure sites.
Major Rokke recommends that concerned citizens call their Congressmen and Senators and ask them what is being done about depleted uranium munitions, our sick soldiers, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims here in the U.S. and around the world.