Depleted uranium no risk to public, Army contends


POSTED: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

HILO » A preliminary study has concluded the public is not at risk from depleted uranium at the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island, the military said.

The Army conducted the study as part of its licensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a site-specific environmental radiation monitoring plan.

According to the report, only three pieces of the radioactive material have been found at Pohakuloa, and the remainder, if any, likely fell into cracks in the lava. The July 8 report says, “;If any significant quantity of DU was fired at PTA, it is expected to have quickly migrated through the pahoehoe and a'a basalt flows and is no longer detectable at the surface.”;

The migration theory “;made me giggle,”; said Mike Reimer, a Big Island resident who served 10 years as head of research at the Colorado School of Mines after a 25-year stint on a uranium project with the U.S. Geological Survey.

“;On the basis of that study, they can't come to that conclusion,”; Reimer said. “;That document they sent to the NRC, I think, was extremely superficial and often contradictory.”;

The Army confirmed the presence of the depleted uranium at the training area in 2007.

After years of denying using the material in the islands, the Army also said soldiers training in Hawaii fired 714 spotting rounds containing depleted uranium in the 1960s.

Howard Sugai, chief public affairs officer for the Army's Pacific region, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will help the Army set procedures to deal with the depleted uranium.

“;The NRC will issue us the policies, the procedures, the protocols on which we manage depleted uranium on our ranges,”; he said.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of radioactive enriched uranium and has been used by the U.S. military in bullets and other weapons designed to pierce armor.