We all should be aware of the dangers posed by the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The eight countries known to possess nuclear weapons have 10,000 plus nuclear warheads. And, especially post-Fukushima, we now understand firsthand the potential danger of nuclear power plants, many which are aging and highly vulnerable to natural disasters. As of August 2012, 30 countries are operating 435 nuclear reactors for electricity generation. Sixty-six new nuclear plants are under construction in 14 countries.
But how many of us know about the current manufacturing and active use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons? DU (Uranium 238) is a radioactive waste by-product of the uranium enrichment process. It results from making fuel for nuclear reactors and the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.
In a frightening adaptation of the “Cradle to Cradle” philosophy in manufacturing, which seeks to use waste in the manufacturing process to create other “useful” products, militaries around the world have come up with the “brilliant” idea of taking DU and making “conventional” weapons with it.
The Physicians for Social Responsibility said in a brief about depleted uranium:
“The fact that DU is aerosolized on impact with its target and is transformed into small dust particles capable of being carried by the wind may threaten air, ground and water resources, which all may become long-term repositories for DU. Long term impact is especially important considering the 4.5 billion year half life of DU.”
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, an alliance of non-governmental organizations and some countries are seeking a worldwide ban on the production and military use of depleted uranium weapons. But other countries around the world, some of which also have DU weapons in their arsenal, downplay or deny the hazards to DU and claim there is no proven long-term hazard to the use of DU weapons.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Military, just as it did when using Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, has denied that DU weapons pose any significant hazard to civilian populations where they are used or American and allied soldiers who deploy these weapons.
And if you think the radioactive dust that has poisoned soldiers and populations, and permeated the ecosystems of the war-torn countries far away from America is not your problem, listen up. DU weapons have been tested by U.S. military at proving grounds and firing ranges in Arizona, Maryland, Indiana and Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Disturbingly, in the bucolic town in Concord, Massachusetts—birthplace of the American Revolution, famous for the “shot heard round the world,” and home of Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond—hosts one of the nastiest Superfund sites in the country. The toxic nightmare resulted from the manufacture of DU weapons.
The Environmental Magazine reported on the Concord Superfund site in 2004:
” … few know about the nuclear waste dump at 2229 Main Street. But this shady burg of 15,000 residents quietly struggles with its legacy as the maker of depleted uranium slugs for the U.S. military’s latest wars. The soil more than a mile from the nuclear dump is radioactive. A 1993 epidemiological study found the town’s residents suffered higher rates of cancer than the state average.”
As of November 2012, the U.S. EPA reported the Superfund site located in Concord on a 46.4 acre site of the former Nuclear Metals, Inc. (NMI) facility, after almost a decade of clean up efforts, is still not completed. Conveniently, NMI went bankrupt before cleaning up the site, leaving U.S. tax payers responsible for cleaning up the mess.
Read more at The Toxic Legacy of Depleted Uranium Weapons