31 December 2010

Green Glossary: Depleted Uranium (DU) by Mickey Z.

depleted uranium bullets photo Stan Honda/Getty Images

Depleted Uranium (DU) is the byproduct of uranium enrichment or, as described by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW),

DU is a waste product of the nuclear industry.

The ICBUW adds: "Depleted Uranium itself is a chemically toxic and radioactive compound, which is used in armor piercing munitions because of its very high density. It is 1.7 times denser than lead. This allows it to easily penetrate the steel armor of tanks and other vehicles when fired at high velocity."

Nuclear weapons may be a hot button topic when discussing Iran or North Korea, but how many know that the US regularly uses DU when waging its seemingly endless wars? "Depleted uranium burns on contact," explains Helen Caldicott,

"creating tiny aerosolized particles less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled." These minute particles can travel "long distances when airborne,

she explains.

"There is no safe dose or dose rate below which dangers disappear. No threshold-dose,'" 

says John Gofman, a former associate director of Livermore National Laboratory, one of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb, and co-discoverer of uranium-233. "

Serious, lethal effects from minimal radiation doses are not 'hypothetical,' 'just theoretical,' or 'imaginary.' They are real."

Sounds like a situation that calls for education and direct action.

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