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Depleted Uranium Poison Explosions Target US Citizens


There are efforts underway to oppose explosions of radioactive materials by the US government into the air in which we breathe. This article will outline various reasons why and how radioactive explosive "tests" are harming America - and describe the efforts of citizens in one area of the country who are now working to try to put a stop to them. Like most people over 21, you may already know that the United States used to "test" nuclear bombs in the NV and NM deserts, right out in the open air. If asked, most people would probably be able to tell us that yes indeed, both above ground and below ground "nuclear testing" in the United States ended years ago. Yet, even though 1992 saw its last nuke bomb "test" inside the United States, how many know that our government is still firing radioactive explosives into our atmosphere? This fact appears to be one of Uncle Sam’s "dirtiest" not-so-little, well-kept secrets...

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Depleted Uranium Poison Explosions Target US Citizens

Cathy Garger, Axis of Logic

January 24, 2007

I Left My Heart In (a 2500 miles radius of) San Francisco

 

Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. Your destiny is a mystery to us.

 

- Chief Seattle leader of the Duwanish tribe
in Washington Territory in an 1854 letter
to U.S. President Franklin Pierce to mark
transfer of ancestral Indian lands to the
United States


 

There are efforts underway to oppose explosions of radioactive materials by the US government into the air in which we breathe. This article will outline various reasons why and how radioactive explosive "tests" are harming America - and describe the efforts of citizens in one area of the country who are now working to try to put a stop to them.

 

Like most people over 21, you may already know that the United States used to "test" nuclear bombs in the NV and NM deserts, right out in the open air. If asked, most people would probably be able to tell us that yes indeed, both above ground and below ground "nuclear testing" in the United States ended years ago. Yet, even though 1992 saw its last nuke bomb "test" inside the United States, how many know that our government is still firing radioactive explosives into our atmosphere? This fact appears to be one of Uncle Sam’s "dirtiest" not-so-little, well-kept secrets.

 

Photo Top Left -- The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) triggered the atomic bomb called Priscilla on June 24, 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. According to U.S. Department of Energy documents, Priscilla was a balloon type test, it was weapons related, and had a yield of 37 kill tons.

Photo Top Right -- This photo was taken on November 1, 1951 and was the "Dog" detonation. It was conducted as part of the Buster/Jangle test series between October and November of 1951. It was an airdrop with a yield of 21 kilotons. Another event  

Photo Center Left -- On December 18, 1970, the Baneberry underground nuclear test was conducted at the Nevada Test Site (NTS); the event released radioactivity to the atmosphere. Baneberry had a yield of ten kilotons (a kiloton is the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT). The nuclear bomb was buried about 900 feet beneath the surface of Yucca Flat near the northern boundary of the NTS. The radiation release or venting resulted in a cloud of radioactive dust that reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. Following the Baneberry venting, new containment procedures were adopted to prevent similar occurrences.

Photo Center Right -- The Stokes atmospheric nuclear test was conducted at the Nevada Test Site on August 7, 1957. The tests was conducted as part the operation "Plumbbob" testing events. Stokes produced 9 kilotons and was exploded from a balloon.

Photo Bottom Right -- This above ground atmospheric nuclear test was conducted at the Nevada Test Site on May 25, 1953. Named Grable the nuclear bomb was fired from a 280 mm gun. The test was an airburst, it was weapons related and had an estimated yield range of 15 Kiloton.

(Photos: Nevada Division of Environmental Protection)

 

Yes, they fire radiation out into the very same air that our families breathe. Tons of radioactive munitions, in fact. Depleted Uranium is the name of one of the materials they use. And if that material sounds familiar? It because it’s the same stuff that they’re using on the "enemy" - that is, on civilians - in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

No, we do not know what in the world the civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan ever did to deserve the "honor" of being blasted to kingdom come with Uranium-238 - rendering their nations permanently uninhabitable. By the same token, nor do we know what American citizens have done to deserve Depleted Uranium being exploded into our air so that we are gassed with it, either.

 

But now the country is starting to buzz with the word of radioactive open air "testing" near San Francisco. And with such a progressive part of the nation that has historically fought hard for peace, equal rights, racial equality, gay rights, and ecological sustainability? As one could say, the Greater San Francisco Bay area is now again boldly "coming out of the closet" with regard to letting the proverbial cat out of the bag about this "dirty" business of Uncle Sam’s.

 

But this is not a story entirely about San Francisco’s troubles. Nor is it even all about California. As you will see, this story affects you and me, no matter where we live in the country. California’s tale is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The story about your community and mine? Now that’s the heart of this story.

 

The fiery "hot" issue of Depleted Uranium explosives "testing" has emerged into the spotlight in the San Francisco Bay area recently all because of some people who live in a city called Tracy.  That’s how anything important usually starts - when just a few people who are fed up enough get together and become vocal enough and publicly put up a fuss.

 

No wonder why they’re upset. Only a few miles away from them on a federally owned 7,000 acre parcel of land in the Altamont Hills at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in San Joaquin and Alameda Counties, California, radioactive explosives containing Depleted Uranium are being shot out into the open air at a location called Site 300. Yes, Depleted Uranium is being exploded across the street from a motorbike recreational area. Site 300 is only a few miles away from where people live.

 

What started all the ruckus was that on November 13 a new permit, issued by California’s San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, was put into effect that allows the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to use more than triple the amount of explosive materials in "test" detonations at Site 300 than in the past. This means that the equivalent of 350 pounds of explosives may now be fired instead of the previously permitted 100 pounds.

 

There are two efforts underway to appeal the new permit for Site 300 that allows for much larger explosions by using greater amounts of radioactive materials. Two appeals have been filed, one by a housing developer and the other by a resident who lives about five miles from the radioactive blast location, Site 300.

 

Small business owner, Tracy resident, and long-standing member of Tri-Valley Communities Against A Radioactive Environment (CARES), Bob Sarvey is leading the way to protect his community of 72,400 from radioactivity at Livermore’s Site 300 by appealing the permit of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. A health risk assessment performed recently shows a higher health risk just from merely inhaling toxic non-radioactive air contaminants than the Livermore Lab shows in its own radiological assessment.

 

Residents realized something was not quite right about this report. "Previously", according to Sarvey, "the Lawrence Livermore Lab didn’t need a permit from the Pollution Control District because their chargers were under 100 lbs. equivalent to TNT - and under 1,000 pounds per year. Now, they are going to increase that to 350 pounds per charge, equivalent to TNT …and they are also going to increase the annual limit to 8,000 pounds. That’s eight-fold of what it was annually… and on a per change basis, three and a half times per charge".

 

In addition to allowing up to 8,000 pounds of explosives containing radioactive matter annually, as reported in the Tracy Press on December 14 the current county air pollution control permit allows Livermore Laboratory to emit up to 1,440 pounds of particulate matter up to 10 microns in diameter per year into the air. The public does not even have to be notified of such emissions unless the particulate matter exceeds a 20,000 pound limit.

 

It only takes one invisible micron of Depleted Uranium to cause organ damage and health failure. Can anyone possibly hazard a guess as to how much potential hazard that 1,440 pounds of particulates could cause - never mind the 20,000 pound particulate upper limit? Can you imagine willingly causing up to 1,440 pounds of radioactive particles to be blasted into the open air? If one miniscule particle so tiny as to be invisible can cause a terminal illness, whose mind can even fathom the devastation 1,440 pounds of this stuff could do to countless numbers of people?

 

But we must remember - Livermore Lab is allowed to explode up to 20,000 pounds into the air in a year and not even have to notify the neighboring communities. And Site 300 is only one of several such explosive "test" sites in the nation.

 

Lawrence Livermore representatives will not reveal to Tracy residents precisely how many bombs might be "tested" in a year. Tracy Press reports that the only reason given by Lawrence Livermore for the eight-fold annual increase in explosives testing is "national security," according to air district spokeswoman Kelly Morphy.

 

Understandably, this news came as a big surprise to citizens of the Greater San Francisco Bay area. Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment executive director, said "This is a shocking change of plan" .

 

On January 8, Recordnet.com quoted Livermore Public Affairs Director Susan Hougton stating that the Lab plans to conduct "only three'" of the larger, 350-pound detonations in the next year and a half. According to Houghton, no blasts larger than 100 pounds have been conducted since 1997.

 

"Only three" large radioactive explosions in a year - and an unknown number of smaller ones at 100 pounds a "pop" - certainly does not sound like too much to be concerned over. So what is the big deal with exploding up to 8,000 pounds of explosives including radioactive toxics like Depleted Uranium out into the open air, anyway?

 

 

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT DU?

 

Depleted Uranium is an inexpensive, radioactive heavy metal more dense than lead. It is basically nuclear waste made from the uranium enrichment process. The supply is plentiful and the US Military uses it in its guns, tanks, bombs, missiles and cannons. To get a feel for how much of it there is of the stuff, The U.S. government has produced more than 1.1 Billion pounds of DU in its uranium enrichment facilities in Ohio and Kentucky. It’s also used as military tank armor, and aircraft, ship and missile counterweight ballasts as well as to provide the massive casing for hydrogen bombs that enable them to undergo fission and give off about fifty percent greater energy "bang for the buck".

 

Our military has found that there are many attractive advantages to using Depleted Uranium (Uranium-238) over Tungsten steel, as Uranium-238 is an easier substance to process. It is also pyrophoric, which means it burns instantly upon impact or if ignited. DU also has the advantage of being easily able to penetrate targets from armored tanks to concrete bunkers.

 

Always happy to rid itself of nuclear waste, Depleted Uranium has been cheerfully given away by the government to weapons manufacturers, who then in turn make a profit by selling the weapons to the US Military for use in combat as well as for running "tests" out into the air. Sometimes in the past fifty years it has been burned in open pits and other times DU is exploded in an estimated twenty-three locations all across the nation, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

 

Experts who have studied the properties of Depleted Uranium and its deleterious effects upon human health have a great deal to tell us. Recently in a letter to Tracy Press, Marion Fulk, local resident and nuclear physical chemist retired from the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab formerly involved with the Manhattan Project, tells us a bit about the uranium that is being exploded at Livermore and its effects upon human health: "Uranium-238, sometimes called 'depleted uranium’, poses a serious health threat, especially if inhaled in finely divided particles like those created by open-air explosives testing. Because of its properties, uranium-238 is a triple threat to human health. Its properties as a heavy metal create health damage once inside the body. Its properties as a hazardous chemical catalyst cause additional health risks. And its properties as a radioactive material offer a third route to cellular and DNA damage, illness and premature death in humans and animals."

 

Despite the fact that Uranium-238 is commonly called "Depleted", this was a label invented to get the public to think that it is a weakly radioactive material. Nothing could be further from the truth. This poison dust packs a powerful punch to the human body, as Dr. Rosalie Bertell, biometrician and environmental epidemiologist, international radiation expert, and Founder of The International Institute of Concern for Public Health explains, "Depleted uranium concentrate is almost 100 percent uranium. More than 99 percent of both natural and depleted uranium consists of the isotope U-238." In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy and the 1995 U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute admits that a small amount of additional toxic heavy metals and radioactive isotopes are also present in Depleted Uranium, such as plutonium, neptunium, americium, Uranium-236 as well as Uranium-234 and Uranium-235.

 

The Uranium-238 which is used in our weapons and is "tested" at test sites throughout the United States is some mighty powerful stuff. We should not, therefore, allow the name of this type of radioactive munition, "Depleted Uranium", fool us. As a matter of fact, in order to bring greater clarity to the issue, scientists from the UK at the Low Level Radiation Campaign are no longer calling uranium weapons "Depleted Uranium" or "DU" but have switched to the term "WDU", which stands for Weapons-Derived Uranium when referring to exposures from use of weapons containing any class of Uranium. Hopefully the term WDU will eventually catch on, because just like the words that the US Military uses to describe DU such as claiming it is "mildly" or "weakly" radioactive, the fact of the matter is, no radiation is harmless radiation.

 

Uranium weapons destroy health and irreparably damage all living things. In his book Radiation-Induced Cancer From Low-Dose Exposure, John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. makes his point about radiation crystal clear: "By contrast, we think human evidence and logic combine to make a case which is already conclusive -- by any reasonable standard of proof -- against the existence of any safe dose or dose-rate of ionizing radiation, with respect to cancer-induction."

 

For the case of simplicity for now, we will stick to the misnomer "Depleted Uranium". A pyrophoric munition, DU explodes spontaneously upon being fired. Up to 80% of it is then oxidized, and an aerosol is formed of minute radioactive particles between the range of below 1 micrometer to 5 micrometers. Immediately after the Uranium-238 is fired, these particles are so tiny that they are actually an invisible gas which can be either inhaled easily into the lungs, ingested in food, or can enter the body inside a break in the skin, such as through a small cut on a finger. In combat, Depleted Uranium can also enter the body via shrapnel that enters the skin.

 

At the May, 1999 Hague Peace Conference, Dr. Rosalie Bertell stated that Depleted Uranium is "converted at high temperature into an aerosol, that is, minute insoluble particles of uranium oxide, UO2 or UO3 , in a mist or fog…Uranium oxide and its aerosol form are insoluble in water. The aerosol resists gravity, and is able to travel … in air. Once on the ground, it can be resuspended when the sand is disturbed by motion or wind. Once breathed in, the very small particles of uranium oxide, those which are 2.5 microns [ one micron = one millionth of a meter ] or less in diameter, could reside in the lungs for years". Once in the lungs, the uranium slowly passes through the lung tissue into the blood. Uranium oxide dust has a biological half life in the lungs of about a year. Eventually, the uranium passes through the lung tissue and then into the blood stream, which may then be broken down in body fluids.

 

Eventually the uranium may be stored in bone, lymph, liver, kidney or other tissues. When found in urine seven or eight years after exposure, it is an indication of its long term internal uranium contamination through storage in the body’s tissues.

 

Marion Fulk gives us an energetic picture of how DU creates havoc once inside the body. "It is an alpha emitter, which means that it is particularly damaging if lodged inside the body. Uranium-238 decays with an energy of 4 million electron volts per alpha particle. The energy emitted tears up surrounding cells and may initiate a whole bunch of negative health outcomes, including, but not limited to, cancers."

 

Dr. Doug Rokke states how fast DU works once inside the body, "Alpha particle emission measurements show that the dose or exposure rate is in excess of 10000 counts per minute." DU, he says, "is a serious internal hazard".

 

Explaining this nasty cell-busting process, Janette D. Sherman, M.D., specialist in internal medicine and toxicology, member of The Radiation and Public Health Project, and author of Life's Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease states that when we are exposed to Depleted Uranium, it is a serious hazard as a chemically toxic heavy metal, plus it is also radioactive. Because the uranium is so concentrated, the alpha activity is increased, and a decay process occurs. Both alpha and beta radiation are emitted into the cell tissue that surrounds the miniature DU particle, affecting other cells and disrupting cell membranes, DNA, and the cell development process.

 

Quoting from Dr. Sherman’s book, "Aside from the radioactivity of uranium, it is a heavy metal poison and foreign body irritant with the potential to remain in the body for decades." Uranium poisoning also involves general health impairment to the kidneys, liver, lungs, and cardiovascular, nervous and cell production systems, and cause disorders of proteins and carbohydrate metabolism .

 

Hmmm…Uranium can stay in the body for decades, you say? Well then, how do we know that any of us is not walking around right now with an invisible particle of Uranium-238 lodged inside one of our lungs, hanging out and waiting to give us cancer twelve years down the road? The point of the matter is, we don’t.

 

In an effort to de-mystify what is called by the US Military "Gulf War Syndrome" in veterans of wars in the Middle East, Dr. Sherman explains what many have come to call Depleted Uranium Poisoning. In "Life’s Delicate Balance", Dr. Sherman details precisely how we get sick from breathing in Uranium-238. "When DU burns, it releases fine particles of radioactive material, much of it as small as nano particles which when inhaled go deep into the lungs and from there are transported to the liver, kidneys, bone marrow, brain, skeleton, seminal fluid, and other parts of the body. DU that is swallowed from airborne particles is transported to the intestinal tract and absorbed and transported to other parts of the body, including the liver and kidneys."

 

As evidenced by increases in incidences of cancer in veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in civilians in these countries, Depleted Uranium clearly plays a role in cancer development, in auto-immune system disorders, and in the alteration of gene expression patterns. By now we’ve all seen the horrific pictures of children from Iraq and Afghanistan with cancers and those born without limbs and unrecognizable facial features.

 

In effect, scientific evidence suggests that Uranium-238 does appear to have an adverse impact on reproduction and the destruction and mutation of genetic material, which is passed down to future descendents which can lead to birth defects in the exposed individual’s offspring.

 

Studies have also shown that DU has a toxic effect on the kidneys as they are the organ that eliminates toxins in the blood and thus are particularly vulnerable to both radiological and heavy metal toxicity and are the first organs to be damaged by uranium. Uranium-238 also causes neurologically related behavioral effects. Recently scientists have observed that there appears to be a correlation between Depleted Uranium and increases in diabetes.

 

Alan Cantwell, M.D. covers the latest scientific thinking on this connection in his article, "Depleted Uranium, Diabetes, Cancer and You". In it Dr. Cantwell writes that "The CDC predicts that Type 2 diabetes will increase 165% by 2050. People with Type 2 diabetes are also twice as likely to get pancreatic cancer." Basic common sense tells us that such dramatic increases in the diabetes epidemic is quite unlikely to be due merely to genetics and "lifestyle choices" alone.

 

Recent data from The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) indicates the enormity of the diabetes epidemic indicating that the disease now affects 246 million people worldwide. They predict that the total number of people living with diabetes worldwide will reach 380 million within twenty years. According to IDF President Pierre Lefèbvre, "Just twenty years ago, the best information available suggested that 30 million people had diabetes. A bleaker picture has now emerged. Diabetes is fast becoming the epidemic of the 21st century."

 

Never before has a quote been so fitting as that from Leuren Moret, geo-scientist and international radiation specialist who wrote, "If it’s an epidemic, it’s not genetic."

Scientists like Moret and Dr. Ernest Sternglass are now observing that increasing atmospheric radiation seems to play a vital role in the expanding worldwide increase in cases of diabetes.

 

 

ABOUT RADIOACTIVE BLASTS

 

With such known devastating health effects of this life-devastating toxin that stays in the body and basically rips it apart, one can’t help but wonder just what type of super-top secret, "national security" projects would necessitate exploding radioactive toxic uranium gas into densely populated areas where millions of Americans inhale these toxics right where they live and work?

 

I contacted the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Public Affairs office to try to better understand the rationale for detonating even greater amounts of radioactive explosives within a highly populated area. Could it be, I wondered, that they do not realize that their 11.7 square miles of nuclear waste materials "testing" Site 300 is less than 50 miles from San Francisco? Maybe someone needed to tell Livermore Lab (i.e., Uncle Sam) that more than seven million people live in the densely populated San Francisco Bay Area and have been breathing in this "gene busting" chemical toxic and radiological poison for about fifty years?

 

Certainly, I reasoned, no sane individuals would be exploding radiation into the air for fifty years - on purpose - if they realized how many families - men, women, children, and infants are breathing in that air?

 

The Public Affairs Director, Susan Houghton, seemed pleased to share that Livermore had been "very successful for 50 years" before Tracy Press started reporting on this issue, but she declined to elaborate further. One can’t help but wonder how the Lab has been "successful" … I wanted to ask her, "successful" at doing… exactly what? Perhaps Livermore Lab is proud they’ve been "successful" at keeping the community in general - and California as a whole - quiet and totally in the dark with regard to the hazards to their health?

 

Apparently the US government has determined that the public does not have a right to know what is in the air they breathe. As reported by Tracy Press on December 14, Livermore Lab spokesperson Linda Seaver stated, "We are not bound to do a public notice for every permit we request. We worked directly with the local air quality board and our various regulators".

 

How do you think the American public would feel if it realized that nuclear bomb simulators purposely and routinely fire off 100 pound toxic and radioactive air blasts that affect the air, water, soil, and food supplies in our communities? Site 300, after all, is only one of at several DU "testing" grounds in the nation. For example, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories both fire Depleted Uranium into the open air, as does the Nevada Test Site and Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.

 

When asked in a phone conversation about radioactivity in the outdoor explosions, Public Affairs Director Houghton said she would not answer questions, but stated that tritium would not be used in the 350 lb tests. On this subject, another laboratory spokesperson, Linda Seaver, informed SF Gate that the Laboratory last used tritium in test explosions in 2001.

 

Tritium, radioactive hydrogen, is present in nature in tiny amounts. Significant quantities, however, are generated by nuclear power plants and the manufacture of nuclear weapons and atomic bomb testing. Tritium, like Uranium-238, is another destroyer of human cells and DNA. According to the Nuclear Information Resource Service website: "Tritium emits radioactive beta particles. Once tritium is inhaled or swallowed, its beta particles can bombard cells. If a particle zaps a DNA molecule in a cell, it can cause a mutation. If it mutates a gene important to cell function, a serious disease may result… Research indicates that tritium can remain in the human body for more than ten years".

 

At a Tracy City Council meeting on January 2, Tracy Press reported Larry Sedlacek, Deputy Associate Director of Operations in the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s Defense and Nuclear Technologies Group, as saying that tritium could be used in tests that would be "aerosolized" after test blasts. He also stated that he "would not rule out using tritium in the blasts… saying details of the blasts are classified." Sedlacek also admitted, "We have used tritium at Site 300 in the past…It is contained in our environmental impact statement that we could potentially use small quantities in the future, but we don’t have any scheduled."

 

Whether the tritium and DU blasts are scheduled on the calendar or they occur at the whim of the detonator button-pusher on duty at Livermore that day, there appears to be some big project going on in the hills near San Francisco. Livermore representatives won’t name a project linked to the planned explosions, but word has it that there’s something new in the works.

 

One is left to ponder what would tritium be used for in the smaller, radioactive tritium tests? Local war correspondent Bob Nichols offered, "It is pretty clear from the tritium that Livermore, like Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab, is busily modeling the explosion of global thermonuclear weapons".

 

 

APPEALING BIG EXPLOSIONS

 

With such a long history of radioactive explosions at Site 300, one is left to sit and ponder the impacts of these explosions upon the health of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. A health risk assessment for air pollution was done by the San Joaquin Pollution Control District, yet their health analysis does not require them to report radiological impacts. Their function is only to report non-radiological toxic air contaminants. Tracy resident Bob Sarvey stated in an interview, "Radiological impacts are not regulated by the Air Pollution Control District. In fact, their health risk assessment is inadequate" because it will contain neither the Depleted Uranium nor tritium used at the site.

 

How curious it is that the county which is required to report levels of air pollution toxics is not required to measure nor report on toxics caused by radioactive explosions being conducted within its county? Livermore Lab’s been "testing" there for 50 years, so it’s not like the Air Pollution Control Board hasn’t heard of what they’ve been up to all those years. San Joaquin’s non-reporting of radiation in a county where Depleted Uranium is fired out into the open air is certainly curious indeed.

 

Residents like Bob Sarvey are understandably concerned that radioactive material such as Depleted Uranium and tritium will continue to be blown into Tracy. Living approximately five miles from the explosive "test" site, Sarvey felt compelled to personally cover a $750 fee to file an appeal against the larger explosives permit. Since the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is not required to regulate radioactive material, Sarvey believes this issue should have referred that question to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

 

The second petition being filed on February 7 is by a developer, Tracy Hills LLC, AKT Development. Out of Sacramento, AKT is calling for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to review the accuracy of emissions estimates, and environmental and noise impacts of the larger blasts, according to appeal documents. Part of the Tracy Hills property adjoins Site 300, although the 5,500 housing community would be not much more than a mile from Site 300. I phoned them to ask if the developer still plans on building those homes so close to a Depleted Uranium explosives "test" site even if their appeal is denied, but my call was not returned.

 

 

OK IT’S HARMFUL - BUT IS THIS STUFF LEGAL?

 

Far, far away, the US Military’s premiere weapon of choice, Depleted Uranium, has been used in combat overseas at least as far back as 1991. It was also used in the former Yugoslavia and surrounding Balkans region [Europe] in the 1990s, in Kosovo in 1999-2000, in Afghanistan beginning in 2001, and in Iraq starting in 1991. While many people believe that DU use started in 1991 and then resumed in 2003 with the second Gulf War, Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, Associate Professor in Environmental Geological Engineering of Mamoun University for Science & Technology, and Member of the reminds us, however, that the use of DU in Iraq never actually stopped. As the expert on uranium weapons-related environmental impact and diseases told us in August, 2006, at the 3rd ICBUW International Conference Hiroshima, "The USA and UK continuously used Depleted Uranium weapons against the population and environment in Iraq from 1991 until today."

 

What makes it hard to comprehend is that these weapons have been used for 15 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East despite the fact that the United Nations has prohibited its use. As stating in its 1996 resolution,

it "Urges all States to be guided in their national policies by the need to curb the production and the spread of weapons of mass destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing depleted uranium".

 

Doug Rokke, Ph.D., health physicist, former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project, and one of the authors of the Pentagon's program for environmental remediation summarizes the international violations associated with use of DU: "According to an August 2002 UN report, the use of DU munitions breaches the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the Genocide Convention, the Convention Against Torture, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907."

 

Before the second war in Iraq even started, Karen Parker, J.D., President and Co-founder of the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, further elaborated on the illegality of DU weapons, in August 1999 when she testified "…these radioactive weapons have already been used in Kuwait, Iraq, Kosovo and Serbia even though they are illegal under existing humanitarian law. There are four main tests which determine whether or not the use of weapons is illegal: (1) whether or not they stay within the territorial range of the conflict; (2) whether or not they damage the environment; (3) whether or not the effects of the weapons end when the conflict ends (or the temporal range of the weapons); and (4) whether or not they are inhumane, that is, continue to cause physical harm beyond the point used for military pur


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