Depleted Uranium–A WMD?
May I say, Good Morning, sports fans! Today’s class will be on a subject that may or may not interest you. Since 9/11 the American people have been bombarded with the fear factor. All those little nations that want nuclear technology and are not on good terms with US, could be a source for the ingredients for a “dirty bomb” or in other words a weapon of mass destruction. I am sure you have heard of these, at least in passing anyway. I will expose you to a few terms and theories on the subject and YES, you will be responsible for the content of this lecture–It will be on a test!
Your professor would like to know if you know just what the hell a “dirty bomb” is? Please may I see a show of hands? Just as I thought, asleep at the wheel and I am not speaking of a rock tune for the past.
OK, a “dirty bomb” is defined as such:
The term dirty bomb is primarily used to refer to a radiological dispersal device (RDD), a radiological weapon which combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. Though an RDD is designed to disperse radioactive material over a large area, a bomb that uses conventional explosives would likely have more immediate lethal effect than the radioactive material. At levels created from most probable sources, not enough radiation would be present to cause severe illness or death. A test explosion and subsequent calculations done by the United States Department of Energy found that assuming nothing is done to clean up the affected area and everyone stays in the affected area for one year, the radiation exposure would be “fairly high”, but not fatal. Recent analysis of the Chernobyl accident fallout confirms this, showing that the effect on many people in the surrounding area, although not those in close proximity, was almost negligible.
As you can see that the death toll would be fairly minimal, but then the residual effects could be a major problem down the road. If a terrooist wanted the most bang for his buck, then the “dirty bomb” may not be the best avenue for him to travel. But if he wanted to do some permenant harm, it could be his cup of tea.
Now let’s move on. What about depleted uranium? I seem to see some vacuous stares out there. And I am guessing somewherre within your grey matter you are asking, what the (expletive) is depleted uranium?
Here you go–Depleted uranium (DU) is uranium that has a reduced proportion of the isotope Uranium-235. It is mostly made up of Uranium-238. The names Q-metal, depletalloy, and D-38, which once applied to depleted uranium, have fallen into disuse.
Its high density and pyrophoricity have made it a valued component in some military applications, particularly in the form of armour-piercing projectiles.
Its use in ammunition is controversial because it is released into the environment. Besides its residual radioactivity, U-238 is a heavy metal whose compounds are known from laboratory studies to be toxic to mammals, especially to the reproductive system and fetus development, causing reduced fertility, miscarriages and fetus malformations. It remains debatable whether depleted uranium is dangerous to human beings at the low quantities in which it is ingested from the environment.
Why are we talking about this? Well your favorite wars being waged as we speak, Iraq and Afghanistan, DU is used on armor piercing projectiles as well as some of the bunker busting bombs. As these are used to fight those darn pesky terrorists, it is finding its way into the eco-system, as well as being inhaled by troops as well as civilians.
It is immediate rsults will not be recognized for years, but eventually troops and civilians will start showing signs of exposure, to include infertility, birth defects, cancerous growths and an additional symptoms that have not yet been isolated. There is a possiblity that thousands and possibly as many as a million people could be effected in the future.
So you see, the original action may not cause a reaction but a long term effect can be expected. For that reason, I say it is a weapon of mass destruction and it is not being used by the terrorists, but rather the self-named savior of the Iraqi people, the US.
I will add that not all scientists agree with the findings of health risks, but keep in mind that there are those scientists that say there is no global warming, either.