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Another Kunstler Rant

BKM

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This is a little "different" than his usual rants (although related). I'm interested in your responses to this (particularly ex-military)September 18, 2003

From www.kunstler.com


The following is from a shy friend without a website who wishes to remain anonymous. While his point-of-view is not identical to mine, his analysis is interesting. For example, I do not know enough about depleted uranium to have a firm opinion about it, but his theory is intriguing, especially in light of the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome that left so many US soldiers sick and disabled in the 1990s. Depleted uranium is used in bullets and artillary rounds because its super-hardness enables it to penetrate armored vehicles. Tremendous amounts of the stuff were expended in the recent war, now scattered all over Iraq (and Afghanistan) in the form of radioactive dust. These dust particles have been blamed for an unusual rise of lung illnesses in US troops lately.

The DU clock is ticking in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Already the "mystery illness" attrition rate exceeds the killed in action toll by a factor of 15. To be sure, DU is an equal opportunity health hazard and it will thus diminish the ardor of partisans as well. They, too, will get too sick to do much. America's next problem in Iraq and Afghanistan will be mutiny by panicking troops. When the malaise reaches ten percent, Washington will realize that withdrawal is the only option. And since rebuilding Iraq is not do-able either economically or physically, an entropy-riddled corpse of a nation will be left to its own devices.
Moslems will respond by refusing to sell oil either to Europe or America, since both crusader and Yank left a legacy of violence, greed, and predatory deceit.
The net effect of the two Bush administrations: to make China a gift of 95 percent of the world's exportable oil by 2010. Also, all those industries outsourced to China created a skilled labor pool while at the same time degrading the ability of America's labor pool to produce tangibles. The greed of America's overclass thus was demonstrably at variance with the common good of American citizens. This dissonance will necessarily result in the circulation of elites as America plunges into insolvency and disorder.
 

El Feo

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DU is less radioactive than granite, and it's only dangerous to those that get hit by DU rounds. It's less toxic than lead paint. Iraqi citizens and American soldiers risk worse health issues caused by blowing sand and dirt. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the men and women who do our fighting, but I don't think this is one of them.

I also think his "friend" is crappier foreign policy analyst and futurist than Kunstler himself is, though it's a close thing.
 

el Guapo

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El Feo -
This is the first time I think I have disagreed with you here. I have worked two DU incidents in the military as well as received sure exposure to it while working EOD missions in Gulf War 1. DU is highly radioactive in its post-pyrophoric stage (after combustion). When I went through decon after my first DU Ammo tank fire in Germany they got 500,000 Alpha counts per minute off of the inlets to my gas mask. That is hot- hot- hot-. Alpha will eventually kill you just like gamma or neutrons. Sure it doesn't penetrate, but once inside you through ingestion and breathing - you're toast at those levels -eventually.

I didn't read Kuntsler's article, but I believe we should look for a replacement for DU or actually help our sick vets- which we are doing everything we can to make their lives miserable now.

Correction; We use DU because it is dense, not because it is hard.
 

BKM

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Interesting perspective, EG. I don't know enough about it, but I am hearing more and more about problems with the uranium.

I agree with you that it was shameful that the government blew off Gulf War symptoms for so long.
 

El Feo

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el Guapo said:
El Feo -
This is the first time I think I have disagreed with you here. I have worked two DU incidents in the military as well as received sure exposure to it while working EOD missions in Gulf War 1. DU is highly radioactive in its post-pyrophoric stage (after combustion). When I went through decon after my first DU Ammo tank fire in Germany they got 500,000 Alpha counts per minute off of the inlets to my gas mask. That is hot- hot- hot-. Alpha will eventually kill you just like gamma or neutrons. Sure it doesn't penetrate, but once inside you through ingestion and breathing - you're toast at those levels -eventually.
EG, I gladly defer to you on this, but I still have to question whether or not post-pyrophoric it is any more dangerous than any other alternative. If that's the case, exactly what do you replace it with? Tungsten? Wouldn't every heavy metal alternative have a high chemical toxicity after detonation? And even at that, isn't the alpha half-life pretty darn short for DU (again, here I'm thinking chem tox is the real potential problem, not radioactivity - right after detonation)? That would argue that yes, ingestion could be a very real concern for decon folks like yourself, but wouldn't the long term danger of high-alpha radiation and chem toxicity in those cases diminish fairly quickly, making the danger to others significantly less? I'm being serious here, I just want to know.

Related - did you feel that the protective measures they had in place for folks doing your job were adequate?

And of course I agree we should be doing everything to help sick soldiers and vets. (I trust you knew that.)
 
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jordanb

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Heh, it looks like Kunstler has a direct line to the tinfoil hat brigade.

Depleted Uranium is an isotope of Uranium called U238. It accompanies U235 in Uranium deposits but is not fissionable, so it must be removed from the Uranium ore before it can be used in nuclear reactors. It's attractive to the military because Uranium (as I'm sure you all learned in planning school) is very heavy. It is also very hard, which makes it an ideal material to make an armor piercing bullet out of.

U238 has a half-life of about 4.5 million years (yes, I did have to look this up), which means that if you have a kilogram of U238, it'll take 4.5 million years for half a kilo of it to decay into other elements. When a atom of U238 decays, it releases 1 alpha particle, 2 beta particles, 3 neutrons, and some high-energy photons (xrays).

Of those, alpha and beta particles are the most damaging (with alpha particles being many times more damaging than beta particles), that's because our bodies are mostly made up of empty space, so an uncharged neutron, for instance, has a pretty high likelihood of zinging right through without actually hitting anything. Alpha and beta particles are charged, so they're attracted to the charged particles that make up your body, they're practically guarenteed to hit something. Of the two, Alpha are very dangerous because they're very heavy (they're actually hydrogen nucleii), while beta particles are just electrons (or positrons), with almost negligable mass, so they don't bring nearly as much inertia with them.

Both of these particles, however, can be stopped relatively
easily. Alpha particles can't penetrate human skin. Beta particles are more penetrative because they travel much faster, they can be stopped with a bit of shielding. So the soldiers in the tanks who are handling the rounds are getting very low levels of mostly neutron and xray radiation, but it's very low, probably lower than natural background radiation, because U238 decayes so slowly. To suggest that they're in any realistic danger deserves a complementary tinfoil hat.

People who don't like depleted uranium (and have reasonable complains) are more worried about the aftermath with the possibility of radioactive debris. When the shell hits its target, a portion amount of it will vaporize because of the energy of imact and its warhead going off, so now you've gone from having a solid chunk of U238 to having airbone U238 dust. That dust can be inhaled into the lungs where it will sit for the rest of the person's life, slowly releasing alpha particles into their body. Their concern was that there would be a lot of that dust left over. A study was performed a bit ago that found that the dust dissipates very quickly, so it is only a danger for people in close proximity to the impact at the time of impact. In other words, being shot with a DU shell does pose health risks, but otherwise, it dosen't appear to be a significant risk.
 

el Guapo

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DU is used in kinetic penetrating rounds. Some bullets you want heavy. Like those used to penetrate tank armor from the bullets of an A-10 Warthog to the Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot with Tracer (APFSDS-T) tank main gun round.


These rounds need to move fast and when they hit a hard metal outer shell makes contact with the armor and digs in. The DU is just there to push it through. 1/2 Mass x Speed(Squared)=Energy. Increase mass and energy goes up.


The fired round eventually breaks up during the kinetic phase and the DU is exposed to great amounts of heat and pressure (fire). This causes the DU to oxidize and turn into a powder. The metal rusts essentially. This powder goes with the wind. It becomes dust. Joe soldier or Abdul the Sheppard may come in contact with the dust. If he gets it on his hands he will get in on his food. If he walks through it he will breathe it. Once inside you the Alpha radiation can cause all sorts of bad effects. It is an ionizing form of radiation. This is very similar to childhood lead poisoning. The problem is not a block of lead in the corner of the room. The problem is lead dust entering the body.

We didn't take protective measures ontil the threat of chemical attack was over. We should have.

El Feo - I have no doubt.

For Technical Info: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/m829a1.htm
 

el Guapo

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jordanb said:
A study was performed a bit ago that found that the dust dissipates very quickly, so it is only a danger for people in close proximity to the impact at the time of impact. In other words, being shot with a DU shell does pose health risks, but otherwise, it dosen't appear to be a significant risk.
People, like.....ummm......me? Yeah that's it. I would say DU is more of a risk than asbestos given equal exposure.

PS For the last time DU is not hard!
 

jordanb

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el Guapo: Sorry, it took me a long time to write that post and there was a lot of discussion in that time. :p I'll cede to you that U238 isn't hard. I inferred that because I remember a discussion of Tungsten as a non-radioactive replacement. It noted that Tungsten was very hard, but that may have just been an ancillary benefit. I'll also cede to your experience, I'm just going off of a news report that I read about the study. I would like to know how close you were to impact and if you were there at the time of impact and if not how soon afterwards?

Some other thoughts: I don't believe that radiation causes symptoms at all similar to lead. Lead, from a quick internet search, inhibits "cell functions" by that I assume functions of the mitochondria, catylists, etc, not necessarily DNA, and primarily acts on the nervous system. Radiation can cause two types of diseases, radiation sickness/burns and cancer. There is no way there is enough radiation exposure here to cause sickness and burns, U238 simply isn't radioactive enough. Cancer is caused by radiation particles damaging DNA. If they damage the right portion of the DNA, they can cause cells to become tumorous. The symtoms of radiation related diseses are well known, and in the case of burns and poisioning, very distinct. If the Gulf War Syndrome were caused by radiation exposure, doctors would know it.

Another thing, (minor nitpick). Vaporised U238 isn't any more radioactive than any other form of U238. They all release the same types of particles, and they all have the same half-life. The problem is that vaporised U238 can be inhaled. If you inhale it, it will be in your lungs for the rest of your life, slowly releasing particles. Twenty years from now one may hit the right part of a cell and give you cancer. That's the danger from vaporised U238.

El Feo - Alpha particles have an infinite half life, they're stable. All they are are fast moving helium nucleii. Eventually, they hit something and slow down, find a few electrons and become proper helium atoms. DU is U238, its half-life is 4.5 million years, that's very long. It has "decay children" that are more radiactive but, assuming the bullet was made with pure U238, there will be essentially no child elements for a very long time, because it decays so slowly.

Also, as to toxicity, it depends on the metal. Many heavy metals aren't radioactive. I believe Radon is the lightest radioactive metal, but don't quote me on that. Of course, they could be toxic in other ways (like lead and mercury). If tungsten is toxic, then it's news to me.

I remain convinced that DU does not cause Gulf War Syndrome, and that Kunstler's friend has a tinfoil hat on, but I agree that it should probably be replaced with tungsten. The reason that DU is used is because it's an industrial waste product with no other applications and, thus, is very cheap. Tungsten is both rare and very useful for other things, and thus, expensive. Is it worth the cost to dump DU? I don't know, but I do know that I wouldn't want to be in el Guapo's shoes, with the only thing between me and a long, painful death being a thin, porous air filter.
 

Cardinal

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jordanb said:
I remain convinced that DU does not cause Gulf War Syndrome.
IMO you are probably correct. Sort of. There are too many cases of GWS among those who were not exposed. I suspect that GSW is not a single illness, but a set of related symptoms attributable to more than one cause.
 

SkeLeton

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jordanb said:
Also, as to toxicity, it depends on the metal. Many heavy metals aren't radioactive. I believe Radon is the lightest radioactive metal, but don't quote me on that. Of course, they could be toxic in other ways (like lead and mercury). If tungsten is toxic, then it's news to me.
Radon, is not a metal... It is radioactive, but it is a noble gas....More on Radon

On DU and GWS.. It may be the cause and effect,it should be investigated throughly and give compensation to all soldiers that have GWS.
 

jordanb

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My point is that if radiation was the cause of GWS, then they'd know it immediently. Doctors know what radation does.

Now that I think of it, I suppose it is possible that DU is toxic in some other way than just being radioactive, but I was referring to the fact that DU is radioactive, its radioactivity can't be the cause of GWS because if it were doctors would have isolated it very quickly.

Of course, uranium miners have been handling U238 for decades now, so I bet that all its hazards, not just its radioactivity, are pretty well understood.

Er, and yeah, sorry about Radon, and actually I was wrong anyway. Polonium is the lightest radiactive element, and it is a metal.
 

Wannaplan?

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jordanb said:
In other words, being shot with a DU shell does pose health risks, but otherwise, it dosen't appear to be a significant risk.
Ha ha. I think the biggest health risk here is... getting shot!!! And that's significant!
 

El Feo

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jordanb said:
Also, as to toxicity, it depends on the metal. Many heavy metals aren't radioactive.
I think you've answered my question about chemical toxicity - sounds like tungsten isn't as toxic as some other heavy metals. I also think you're telling me that's the biggest risk from DU - not it's radioactive properties. That's why I was asking EG about the relative likelihood of folks who weren't initially in the vicinity of the DU "burn" or dust dispersment being adversely impacted.

I would think they'd have a handle on the chemical effects of DU, too, since somebody's gotta be milling this stuff for use in rounds.

OT, but related - I wonder if there aren't entire communities out west where the presence of alpha radiation from uranium, or even uranium dust, contaminates the soil more than in areas where DU rounds have been used, given the way mill tillings were disposed of in the past.
 
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