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reposted | 16.10.2006 19:22 | Anti-militarism

Ignored Harmful Effects of DU Munitions From the Horses’ Mouths.

By Elaine A. Hunter

Ignored US Government and Military data that DU munitions are harming the health of workers, both civilian and military,national and international, while they are in transit or just sitting around waiting to be used in battle.


More, Much More on Ignored Harmful Effects of Concentrated “Depleted” Uranium [DU] Munitions From the Horses’ Mouths.

Heads up people concerned about the harmful effects of concentrated “depleted” uranium munitions, this is very important. They are harming the health of workers, both civilian and military, national and international while they are in transit or just sitting around waiting to be used in battle.


Each person who comes to consider the effects of the serial killer concentrated “deplete” uranium munitions comes from a different perspective. My personal “radio” got tuned in to uranium as ammunition in 2003, just before the beginning of the current aggressive attack on Iraq.

Since 1971, I have known that a chunk of uranium sitting on a shelf emitted enough penetrating, ionizing radiation to give an above-background reading on a Geiger counter sitting on the other side of a wall at least 5 feet away on a physics lab counter top. I did not learn this from something I read on the internet, a training manual or a secondhand story. I learned it from first-hand experience. The radiation coming through that wall was not alpha or beta [alpha & beta are particles] they do not pass through walls. It was gamma rays, x-rays and worst of all as far as humans are concerned, neutrons [also particles].

Picture this: a physics lab session is preparing to learn about radioactive materials. The first order of business is to take a background radiation reading. Background radiation is a quasi-constant, more or less known for the location in question. The location was a quality community college in Prescott, AZ. And YIKES! the reading is noticeably above expected background. The instructor is mystified. What does this mean?

Here’s what it turned out to mean. On the other side of the wall was the geology display case. In the geology display case was a chunk of yellowcake uranium about the size of a small grapefruit. What it turned out to mean was that our instructor was getting bombarded by gamma rays, x-rays and neutrons at about the level of the gonads whenever he stood in front of a class to lecture. Boy was he upset. I was a student in that class and the physics lab assistant. It was my job to take the Geiger counter and round up all the other radioactive samples in the display case, and there were quite a few, stash them away in a lead-lined box and have them put far away from student/faculty traffic.

Biggest lesson learned: they know what it is, forget what it does and what to do about it until there is a crisis.

Three-plus decades later enter concentrated “depleted” uranium munitions, just before the start of the current war in Iraq. This was not my first foray into concerns about uranium or other nuclear concerns. However I missed getting into concerns about uranium munitions after Desert Storm. Just as that war ended, my three-months pregnant daughter was critically brain injured in an auto accident. I had to leave for Kentucky and didn’t think about wars for a long time.

When I did plug in to what is broadcast on the internet, I was mystified that all the concern was about DU inhaled, ingested or embedded as fragments. Those aspects are important, without a doubt, and the most obvious. Yet unless the rest of the story is known, the rest of the causes of illnesses and deaths of workers in the DU contaminations fields will continue to be ignored. The rest of the story is this: it is not necessary for the munitions to be used in combat for them to make a person sick, even sick unto death.

Don’t believe me? Enter the Horses’ Mouths.


I knew from the get-go [2003 for me] that this would be a hard sell to the anti-DU activists who have been at it for years and anybody else affected by this radioactive quagmire. Yet I knew in my heart and mind that the gamma ray, x-ray and neutrons factors were essential to get the rest of the story. Thus I searched and waited, searched and waited for conclusive evidence from a source far more authoritative than myself.

Some of the authoritative sources, the horses’ mouths were provided by the US Department of Transportation [DOT]. Uranium munitions are being transported countrywide and worldwide without proper HazMat ID because an exemption, DOT-E 9649, the military has through the DOT. Thanks to some very concerned activists, objections were raised to the biannual renewal of said exemption. The result is docket 18576 found at [click on “Simple Search”, enter docket number]. This docket has proved to be a treasure trove of data from various horses’ mouths. The most valuable document posted to that docket was the attachment to a decision letter posted on May18, 2005. Testimony to its valuable information is that the document has since been removed from the docket, though some activists still have copies.

Simply put, when a whole bunch of DU ammo is gathered together in one place, the dynamics are such that gamma rays [measured by their Radiation Safety Officer, see docket 21 Sept 2004 letter from Army’s CraneArmyAmmunitionActivity, IN], and also x-rays and neutrons [no measurements on this are available] are well above what is allowed by industrial standards. Some workers, both civilian and military are at risk of being radiologically maxed-out for the year in only 100 hours! None of said workers know this and none wear industry standard badges for measuring their exposure. Here is an excerpt from the attachment to the decision letter mentioned above:

“Pallet contact radiation dose rates are generally twice, and in one case, over four times the regulatory limit for Limited Quantity materials. However, pallet and modal conveyance dose rates at one meter are generally a multiple of three to six time justifiable Limited Quantity classification, and for one sized round, six to eleven times. In the case of this latter round, inappropriate radiation exposures could occur to transport workers by being in the vicinity of the material for just 100 hours per year.”

Radiation safety? Is there any such thing anymore?

Soldiers getting rectal cancer from sitting on DU ammo boxes? We know for sure particulate DU is not inhaled through the rectum and the ammo boxes do not emit particulate. The cause? Gamma, rays, x-rays, and neutron zipping and zapping out of the ammo boxes are the causes. In addition to the radiation emitted from the ammunition inside the ammo boxes, the ammo boxes themselves have become radioactive due to fissionand transmutation caused by constant bombardment by high energy particles and rays, and add to the mix.


Did the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety [OHMS] analysis include measurements of the neutron and x-ray emission emitted from the munitions in question? If so it was not reported on the docket.

To consider DU munitions as anything other than nuclear weapons is obfuscation and self-delusion of the worst sort. Neutron and X-ray emission are serious considerations which everyone seems to ignore, and is of special concern in situations in which large amounts of concentrated uranium are present. This stuff is “alive.” The radioactive dynamics and interactions are entirely different from those experienced by that which has been used in battle.

I requested neutron and X-ray emissions measurement data [but none have been received] for 120mm/CA26 and 25mm/A986 such as are transported to, from and stored at Blue Grass Army Depot [BGAD]. I live rurally 15-20 miles as the crow flies from BGAD; my daughter, her husband and three of my precious grandchildren live less than 10 miles as the crow flies. In addition we pass right by one of the main entry gates to BGAD very often on Highway 25 on the way to/from Richmond, KY. Richmond has a sizeable population and any munitions in transit to/from BGAD must pass through town. Naturally the reports in the docket from BGAD caught my attention.


Concentrated “depleted” uranium is mostly Uranium-238, not exclusively U-238, but it gets more complicated if we include the other isotopes which may be present and the scenario is worse that with just U-238.

Rate of Spontaneous Fission Neutrons From Uranium is 59.5 3 neutrons/g/hr

According to one reference [ from Proc. Phys. Soc., D.J. Littler, 1952: “A Determination of the Rate of Emission of Spontaneous Fission Neutrons in Natural Uranium”] the rate of emission of spontaneous fission neutrons from natural uranium is computed to be 59.5 3 neutrons/g/hr of uranium.

Uranium-238 Undergoes Spontaneous Fission at a Rate 35X That of Uranium-235
According to another reference: [], Uranium-238 undergoes spontaneous fission at a rate 35 times that of Uranium-235. Though U-238 is not fissile, which means it does not sustain chain reactions, it is indeed fissionable, spontaneously fissionable.

Neutrons produced by spontaneous fission may experience:

Non-fission capture by uranium
Non-fission capture by other elements present

The size and shape of a quantity of uranium makes a difference in the relative number of neutrons that escape or get captured. The greater the surface area, the greater number of neutrons escaping.

Neutron radiation is known to be comparable to gamma rays as regards health hazards.

Briefly and roughly stated: Uranium normally and continually emits atomic particles called neutrons, traveling at high velocity.


[Except that the bombardment is happening to those who make them and plan to use them, not the “enemy”, before the munitions are ever used in battle.]

Neutron Bomb [Enhanced Radiation Warhead-ERW] Basics:

1. It kills people but leaves equipment and buildings in place.

2. The primary lethal effects of the neutron bomb come from the radiation damage caused by the neutrons it emits. Neutron radiation effects drop off very rapidly with distance.

3. Tactical neutron bombs are primarily intended to kill soldiers who are protected by armor. Steel armor can reduce neutron radiation only by a modest amount. Armor can absorb neutrons and neutron energy, but this is offset to some extent by the fact that armor can also react harmfully with neutrons. Alloy steels for example can develop induced radioactivity that remains dangerous for some time. When fast neutrons are slowed down, the energy lost can show up as x-rays. Some types of armor, like that of some M-1 tanks, employ depleted uranium which can undergo fast fission, generating additional neurons and becoming more radioactive.

Neutron and gamma radiation can penetrate armor or several feet of earth and is extremely destructive to living tissue. With neutron bombardment there is short-range effectiveness and no long-term contamination as it quickly dissipates after the explosion. No radioactive fallout is left behind

One of the most disturbing realizations about the harmful effects of neutrons is that there is no “smoking gun,” no evident of what caused the harm. All sorts of methods could test the victims and NO test would ever reveal that neutrons [or gamma rays or x-rays] were the cause of illnesses, deaths or birth defects.


1. Neutrons are uncharged particles, thus atomic nuclei do not repel them. A neutron has mass but no electrical charge. When freed they make an extremely lethal form of radiation. The probability that a neutron [fast neutron] with an initial energy of about 1 MeV [million electron volts] will induce fission is rather low, but can be increased by a factor of hundreds when the neutron is slowed down through a series of elastic collisions with light nuclei such as hydrogen, deuterium, or carbon. The preferred way of slowing down neutrons is to cause them to pass through material of low atomic weight, such as hydrogenous material!

2. Neutrons are particularly effective in initiating nuclear reactions if they pass through water. The light atoms in water absorb some of the neutrons’ energy and do so without absorbing the neutrons themselves [elastic collisions]. Neutrons are thus slowed down to the point they moved with only the speed of molecules at room temperature. These thermal neutrons stay in the vicinity of a particular nucleus a longer fraction of a second and are more likely to be absorbed than fast neutrons.

3. The human body is hydrogenous material - a well organized body of water [75% or more], with some heavier molecules thrown in - which is damaged or destroyed when transformed into a small-scale water-moderated nuclear reactor by neutron emission.

As to X-ray emission it is due to Bremsstrahlung or braking radiation caused by an accelerated particle such as a beta radiation electron interacting with the nucleus of atoms such as steel mentioned above. The two first daughters of U-238 are Thorium-234 and Protactinium-234, both of which are know emit beta radiation. Just as neutron emission must not be ignored, X-ray emission must also be considered.

Below are very rough calculations of neutron emissions. We need real life measurements of neutron emissions. The public, workers and soldiers have the right to know.

Table 1. Analysis neutron emission from 25 mm/A986 DU Explosives 1.2 M919, UN 0328 in a PA-125 container [30 each per container, 1260 per pallet] Source of information on types of loads: Comment RSVA-2004-18576-268 from Radiation Safety Officer of Blue Grass Army Depot

Load.................Quantity..........Weight [grams]**.......... Theoretical Neutrons/Hr***
Pallet, ...........1260/pallet .........186,480 ........................11,095,560

Truck Trailer .....17 pallets .....3,170,160 ......................188,624,520

Rail Car Full ......48 pallets .....8,951,040 .......................532,586,880

Milvan Full .........15 pallets .....2,797,200 .......................166,433,400


**Weight of DU in one 25mm round is variously listed as 148 or 150 grams; for these calculations the 148-gram weight has been used.
***Rate of Spontaneous Fission Neutrons From Uranium is 59.5 3 neutrons/g/hr. the 59.5 rate is used in calculations above. A DU penetrator encased in a 25mm round would not be a 100% efficient emitter of neutrons, however it’s long, narrow profile do make it one of the most efficient neutron emitter of the various size of DU rounds currently in use.
Views of typical 25mm DU rounds are available at:

1. Cross-sections of a 25 mm/A986 DU Explosives 1.2 M919
M919 Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot With Tracer (APFSDS-T)

2. Another rendering of a Cross-section of a 25mm/A986 DU Explosive


1. Workers in ammunition manufacturing facilities, military and civilian.
2. Truck drivers, both civilian and military who transport these munitions.
3. Anyone else civilian or military who must spend long hours in close proximity of
stockpiles concentrated “depleted” uranium ammunition.
4. Workers, civilian and military engaged in demilitarization of DU munitions.

Doctors of today are scarcely better prepared to understand what has happened to, what is going on with mysteriously sickened patients exposed to the various types of radiation than the doctors of sickened survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped.


Concentrated “depleted” Uranium [primarily Uranium-238]: The munitions in question contain solid rods of Uranium and it’s daughter products, Protactinium-236 and Thorium-236, both of which emit beta radiation; plus impurities which may also be radioactive such as Plutonium; plus Uranium-234 after radiative decay of Thorium-236. The term “depleted” is misleading. The Uranium is depleted [though not completely] of Uranium- 235 through outrageously expensive methods of isotope separation.

It’s very important to note that Pa-236 and Th-236 have very short half lives, making them “very” radioactive. Much attention is given to long half-lives of millions and billions of years. Isotopes with short half-lives do their damage in very short time frames, making them potentially most harmful.

© 2006

Elaine A. Hunter, D.Sc.
Independent Researcher



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  1. Here's a song about Uranium Weapons — messenger