Radiation Fears and Depleted Uranium

A new fear has apparently been created by the application by the U.S. Army with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to leave depleted uranium from firing tests of the Davey Crocket weapons system at the ranges on Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, Colorado and other military locations. The Army contends, and I agree, that “…cleaning up the waste at Fort Carson and other installations is too expensive.”

A military report on the Davey Crocket program indicates that about 7 ounces of depleted uranium was used in each training round. “The Army estimates that more than 1,400 of the training rounds rained down at Fort Carson; none have been found.” The Army reported in 1961 that depleted uranium could be handled “…with your bare hands and it’s not going to hurt you.” The half life is a bit under 4.5 billion years, which indicates there is a minimal or non-existence radiation risk. One research project I was assigned when I worked at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant required the use of machining turnings of depleted uranium. I was warned that the turnings would be sharp, but there was no radiation risk.

The Davey Crocket was a small nuclear round launched from a “bazooka” system. It was tested in Nevada in 1962 in a blast named “Little Feller.” The weapon was a key component of the defense of Germany when there were fears about the massive tank-led army units of the Soviet and East German armies. There were 2,100 Davey Crocket nuclear rounds produced during the Cold War. There were also 75,000 depleted uranium training rounds produced, of which 30,000 were fired. The only risk of the depleted uranium at Fort Carson and the other sites would be if someone found one of the rounds, picked it up, and dropped it on their foot.

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