STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
A radiation measuring machine monitors a depleted uranium shell.
Army to study radiation risk
A Schofield area that had depleted uranium is safe, a report says
The Army will spend $2.5 million to monitor a Schofield Barracks training range for possible health risks from depleted uranium and will conduct aerial surveys of ranges at Pohakuloa on the Big Island and Makua Military Reservation.
Greg Komp, an Army radiation safety officer, and other Army, federal and state radiation experts released a three-month health risk study yesterday that said the impact area at Schofield Barracks is "safe for soldiers, those who live near the site, and current and future workers." But it still doesn't know the extent of the problem at Makua and Pohakuloa Training Area.
The military uses depleted uranium, twice as dense as lead, as part of the armor to protect its tanks and in projectiles designed to penetrate enemy armored vehicles.
The study was conducted by Cabrera Services and included 1,400 air, vegetation and soil samples at Schofield. It was begun in August.
The Army said the radiological-chemical risks from the depleted uranium were within established safety limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The depleted uranium was found in a 400-acre impact area of a Schofield training range in August 2005 while a contractor was clearing the area in anticipation of its use by the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The Army said soldiers do not go into the impact area because it is littered with unexploded ordnance.
Fifteen tail assemblies from the M101 spotting round used by the then-classified Davy Crockett nuclear weapon system were found at Schofield. Until then, the Army said it was unaware that the weapon had been fired here.
Following soil sampling, the Army in January 2006 confirmed that the weapon system was used there between 1962 and 1968 and probably also fired at Makua and Pohakuloa.
Komp said that although pieces of the training round have been found at Pohakuloa, none has been uncovered at Makua. Search efforts at Makua have been hampered by the dense brush and ground cover and the high number of unexploded munitions.
"We don't know if DU (depleted uranium) was ever used there," Komp said. "It is still an unknown."
However, later this year the Army plans to do a helicopter survey of Makua and Pohakuloa. Army officials will use the impact area at Schofield Barracks as a baseline, calibrating its recording instruments as it flies over the area where depleted uranium has already been found.
Using those readings, survey flights will then be made over Makua and Pohakuloa, Komp said. He said the impact area at Pohakuloa is small and in a remote area near the northern boundary of the training area.
The Army has said neither depleted uranium nor elevated radiation readings have been detected outside the impact areas at Schofield or Pohakuloa.
Depleted uranium is formed as a byproduct of the enrichment of natural uranium, but with 40 percent less radioactivity, the Army has said.
Because of its density, it was used in the warhead of the M101 spotting round to provide the weight sufficient to mimic a nuclear warhead normally fired by the Davy Crockett recoilless gun. The M101 was about 8 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. It contained 6.7 ounces of DU.
Komp said Army records show 75,000 spotting rounds were produced, with 715 sent to Hawaii. So far, 44,000 rounds have been destroyed.
However, Komp said the Army doesn't have any records here on where and how many of those 715 rounds were fired.