DU ALERT: Uranium-238 is a triple threat
Tue Jan 9, 2007 20:34

This is the most amazing, hard-hitting Letter to the Editor I have ever read.

Cathy Garger

Uranium a big threat to Tracy

Marion Fulk/For the Tracy Press Tuesday, 09 January 2007

Gary Mansfield, a health physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, claimed in his Dec. 27 commentary that “the use of depleted uranium in explosives testing at Site 300 presents no risks to the public.” Balderdash.

Uranium-238, sometimes called “depleted uranium,” poses a serious health threat, especially if inhaled in finely divided particles like those created by open-air explosives testing.

Because of its properties, uranium-238 is a triple threat to human health. Its properties as a heavy metal create health damage once inside the body. Its properties as a hazardous chemical catalyst cause additional health risks. And its properties as a radioactive material offer a third route to cellular and DNA damage, illness and premature death in humans and animals.

Uranium-238 has a radioactive half-life of more than 4 billion years. It is an alpha emitter, which means that it is particularly damaging if lodged inside the body. Uranium-238 decays with an energy of 4 million electron volts per alpha particle. The energy emitted tears up surrounding cells and may initiate a whole bunch of negative health outcomes, including, but not limited to, cancers.

Mansfield asked readers to look at the lab’s Sitewide Environmental Impact State-ment, although he neglected to provide any reference point in its approximately 2,000 pages. Let me remedy that. On page S-30, the document states that the planned activities at Site 300 will increase the surrounding community’s exposure to radiation nearly fourfold, from 2.5 person-rem per year to 9.8 person-rem per year. The actual exposures are likely to be even more severe.

I do not write as one who is unfamiliar with either the Livermore lab or nuclear materials. I have conducted experiments with radioactive elements for the Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies since the late 1940s, and I capped my career with 18 years as a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

As a scientist, it pains me when lab employees seek to understate the very real health risks that stem from inhalation of radioactive and toxic materials, including those used at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Site 300 high explosives testing range on Corral Hollow Road.

Marion Fulk is a retired staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and was involved with the Manhattan Project.


Help the US become Radiation Free by 2033!

Cathy Garger





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