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  1. A10's have strafed two small Libyan naval vessels, while a P-3 Orion blew up a bigger one with a Maverick missile.

  2. DU is very much like lead when it comes to it's chemical and radiological toxicity. If someone fires DU shells with an autocannon at you, the problem is the shells, not if they're made out of DU or lead.

  3. DU is not used in AT missiles, as they usually use shaped charge warheads. DU is used in cannon shells and as heat shields at the tip of ICBM's. It's also used as ballast in sail boats.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 02:45:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore, what is DU? It's uranium with most of the U-235 stripped out, leaving it essentially U-238. Which isn't dangerous, not more than lead.

A few years ago, a number of Italian soldiers came down with leukemia after having been stationed in Kosovo, and it was suspected that they had been exposed to U-238 (DU dust in knocked out Serb armored vehicles etc). Because of these worries, a study was performed on Swedish soldiers who had been in Kosovo where the amount of uranium in their urine was measured. The troops who had been stationed abroad were found to have radically lower levels of uranium in their urine compared to the ones who hadn't been there. This was somewhat confusing. It was then found that the uranium came from the tap water in Sweden.

Sweden and Finland seems to be quite unique in this that we have high levels of uranium in our tap water. Maybe because of the ice age or something. The leading research on the health risks of uranium in tap water is done at the University of Uppsala, as Uppsala (the city where I live) have the highest levels of uranium in the water of any community in Sweden and possibly(?) in the world, even if some private wells have even higher levels. There are some countermeasures like filtering out the uranium, but all have drawbacks, like removing certain salts and minerals from the water, which due to their high concentrations are hypothesised to explain the unusally low levels of heart disease in Uppsala. Ironically, the danger posed by this uranium is not radiotoxicity - it's rather thought that high levels of uranium in the water might cause kidney damage due to chemical heavy metal toxicity, just like lead does.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 03:03:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very informative! I knew that the U238 isotope was pretty stable but was concerned with its biological toxicology. It would seem that chelation therapy might be appropriate periodically in Sweeden to guard against heavy metal poisoning through accumulation. (B-12 has some chelation potential.) But do you know the allowable contamination of DU ordinance with U235, Plutonium, in its various isotopes, and other long lived fission products?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 04:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My understanding is that DU is used in warheads because it is extremely hard (unlike lead), and thus good at armour busting.  It is also a handy way to get rid of a somewhat dangerous by product of fission.  Its radio-toxicity is presumably dependent on how depleted it is, and I doubt the military are too concerned at maintaining particularly high quality standards for ordinance that is intended for the enemy except insofar as it might also constitute a hazard for their own personnel.

The issue then becomes the implications for the civilian population living in war zones for extended periods where DU ordinance has been used.  It shouldn't be too hard to clear up the battlefields if the welfare of the civilian population is truly a concern. The scrap metal from the Falklands made an Irishman a multi-millionaire.

I suspect the dust from an exploded DU warhead is the major problem especially if it is inhaled. However anyone within breathing distance of such an exploded warhead is probably already dead!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 04:26:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
particularly hard, but they are heavy, which is a virtue in a penetrating projectile weapon.  Uranium is very heavy.  That it burns spontaneously means it doubles as an incendiary weapon, so that after penetrating the tank it burns out the tank from the inside.  

How hard is it to clean up fine, scattered dust?  Very.  Clean-up is possible if the Uranium oxide has not been widely scattered.  

Always, ingestion is the main issue.  Of course the tank crews die from burning, but anyone wandering by a day or a year later can be harmed by breathing or swallowing the dust.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 04:11:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gaianne:
Neither lead nor uranium are (none / 0) particularly hard, but they are heavy, which is a virtue in a penetrating projectile weapon.  Uranium is very heavy.
In fact, uranium is so heavy that it can be used to penetrate any non-radioactive metallic armor...

The fact that if is pyrophoric seems to be neither here nor there, despite the fact that white phosphorus is known to be very toxic and there's controversy over whether it should be considered banned already by existing non-conventional-weapon bans. So with "depleted uranium".

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 04:35:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no plutonium or other fission products in DU. DU is the leftovers from the uranium enrichment process, the discarded uranium, which never has and never will enter a reactor.

(Except in a possible future where fertile DU can be packed around a fissile core in a breeder reactor, where the abundance of neutron radiation will transmute the DU into fissionable material.)

Chelation therapy is expensive and not proved to be effective (or ineffective) as of yet, but there are some big studies being done IIRC and the judge is still out. The best filter idea the researcher have figured out can leave all those nice minerals, but also leaves somewhat radioactive filters (a pile of wet uranium I suppose), which the local water plant people have no competence to deal with. Maybe they could ask the people at the Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory in Västerås for help? I can't see how it should be a huge or complex operation. Maybe they could even sell the recovered uranium. :)

One last option is to just ignore the problem, except in those special private wells with extremely high concentrations. After all, the problem with uranium in the communal water is so small that no one had even noticed it before that study was done on those soldiers. We've after all been living around here for more than a thousand years without getting any noticeable medical problems from this uranium.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 04:31:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please ignore my comment on the inefficiacy of chelation therapy in heavy metal poisoning situations, I mixed it up with use in non-poisoning situations.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 04:33:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DU is the leftovers from the uranium enrichment process, the discarded uranium, which never has and never will enter a reactor.

So, the contaminants would be typical of the ore from which it was refined? Or just how pure is this stuff? If it has passed through a UF6 chemical process and through a gas diffusion process I could imagine that it has rather low contamination, but I could imagine that other minerals could also react with Fluorine to make a gas and thus pass through this process.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 05:41:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U-238 has an half-life of 4.5 billion years. So yes, I think we can class it as "pretty stable". ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 04:36:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depleted uranium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Depleted uranium (DU) is uranium primarily composed of the isotope uranium-238 (U-238). Natural uranium is about 99.27% U-238, 0.72% U-235, and 0.0055% U-234. U-235 is used for fission in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Uranium is enriched in U-235 by separating the isotopes by mass. The byproduct of enrichment, called depleted uranium or DU, contains less than one third as much U-235 and U-234 as natural uranium. The external radiation dose from DU is about 60% of that from the same mass of natural uranium.[2] DU is also found in reprocessed spent nuclear reactor fuel, but that kind can be distinguished from DU produced as a byproduct of uranium enrichment by the presence of U-236.[3] In the past, DU has been called Q-metal, depletalloy, and D-38.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 29th, 2011 at 05:54:24 PM EST
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