Archive for the ‘Depleted Cranium’ Category

Student Faces Disciplain Over Uranium

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

This is the kind of story that really burns me up. General fear and ignorance by both authorities and the public is once again making life unnecessarily problematic for someone who didn’t do anything wrong.

Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Stetson student found with uranium on DeLand campus
Stetson University officials confiscated a package containing low-grade uranium from a student Thursday, DeLand police said.

Volusia County’s HAZMAT team, DeLand police and firefighters were called to the scene. Authorities discovered that the amount of uranium was small enough that it could be possessed legally.

Police said there was no immediate threat to the campus, but the Public Safety Office was temporarily sealed off as a precaution.

According to Cindi Brownfield, Stetson spokeswoman, possession of uranium falls under the university’s weapons policy, and the student will go through Stetson’s judicial process.

DeLand Deputy Chief Randel Henderson said in an email that police are “conferring with the FBI as a routine protocol.”

And also, here’s a clip from a local news station:

Uranium found in Stetson University dorm room:



Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

The press has been going nuts the past few hours with stories of “weapons grade uranium” or “highly enriched uranium” being for sale on the black market in Moldova. A group of men have apparently been arrested for selling what they claim was enriched uranium, with some reports indicating that they were selling it as nuclear bomb material.

The reported amounts were relatively small, not nearly enough to actually build a nuclear weapon. Even if they had been highly enriched uranium of a quantity necessary, it would still have taken knowledge and facilities beyond those of any non-state terror group to build a functional nuclear weapon. Still, if this was highly enriched uranium, it’s still a very big deal. For one thing, HEU is pretty damn valuable stuff, which is generally guarded quite closely if only for it’s value. It’s used for many research and military nuclear reactors, but becomes too radioactive to easily transport after it has been in the reactor for even a short period of time.

While HEU is not easily fabricated into a weapon by most groups, even a small amount of it could really help a country like Iran or North Korea jump several months ahead in a nuclear weapons program, as production of HEU requires a great deal of enrichment. Even a small amount of highly enriched uranium could also be quite dangerous, as criticality accidents can easily occur with such material.

Here’s what the New York Times Says about the incident:

Arrests in Moldova Over Possible Uranium Smuggling
MOSCOW — The police in Moldova said Wednesday that they had arrested six people involved with a criminal group that said it was dealing in smuggled nuclear materials and was active in the former Soviet Union and in Arab countries.

The group had been negotiating the sale of uranium, police officials said in a statement and in remarks reported by news agencies, and the authorities suggested that the material had come from Russia.

Some of the suspects were arrested while they were carrying a lead canister, the authorities said. In a video released to the news media, police officers wearing gloves showed how a Geiger counter clicked rapidly when brought near the dull gray metal tube. The police said the contents of the tube would be sent for analysis.

Though associated with the chaos of the immediate years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, reports of nuclear smuggling in the former Eastern bloc continue to this day, and are no less ominous for the number of false alarms that are raised from time to time. Last year, for example, the Moldovan authorities arrested members of a group that was selling what turned out to be only slightly radioactive uranium.

The prevalence of these cases, including frauds and other scams, illustrates the difficulties associated with the legacy of the loosely guarded Soviet weapons program.

The Moldovan authorities said that the suspects, who included four Moldovans, one Russian and one resident of the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria in eastern Moldova, had sought a buyer for what the suspects said was bomb-grade uranium, Western and Russian news agencies reported.

The gang thought it was negotiating with a North African buyer who turned out to be an undercover security agent, according to the police and the news agency reports. They gang’s members had sought to sell uranium that they said was enriched to an unspecified refinement of the isotope 235 for between $29 million and $144 million per kilogram, the police statement said.

Other press outlets are even less restrained, coming right out and saying that this was indeed weapons grade uranium intended for construction of a nuclear bomb.

But is this actually highly enriched, even weapons-grade uranium?


DU In Lybia? It Just Does Not Matter

Monday, March 28th, 2011

To get this out of the way, let me start off by stating my opinion on the military intervention by the US and NATO in Libya. I think it’s a bad idea. While it is certainly a concern that Muammar Gaddafi has been using tactics that include targeting civilian areas in an attempt to suppress rebellion, it does no mean that bombing the Libyan military ultimately helps the situation. The US should have learned by now that using military force to intervene and effect regime change in the Middle East is very expensive, in terms of money, lives and in the commitment of national assets.

The US and our NATO allies really don’t have any direct interest in what goes on in Libya. The country is not an eminent threat to us, although it is possible instability could result in higher oil prices if it begins to affect the rest of the region. We certainly do not want to commit to any kind of ground campaign. We’ve only recently managed to start getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan has become a conflict which lacks leadership or direction. Becoming involved in the conflict in Libya is a can of worms we don’t need to open, and the prospect of ground troops, even in the roll of “peace keeping” is not a situation we want to get into.

Not only that, but much as we dislike Muammar Gaddafi, supporting the overthrow of the government of Libya is not sure to work to the advantage of the US or other NATO countries. It’s anyone’s guess what might take hold in the power vacuum and whatever regime may come to replace him could be peaceful and democratic or even worse than Gaddafi.

So I will come down on the side of this is a bad idea. You may disagree, which is fine. This is a political issue that is sure to have a number of sides and arguments.

However, there is another issue that has been raised, which is scientific, not subjective: Depleted Uranium.

Has depleted uranium been used in the airstrikes against Libya? I’d say probably not, because, at least in the US military, the use of depleted uranium munitions is normally confined to anti-armor kinetic energy rounds. However, depleted uranium has been used in the past to adjust the center of gravity or add weight and other munitions, and since the airstrikes have included the French, British and other forces, I can’t really say for certain whether depleted uranium was used in any of the bombs dropped. It’s remotely possible that it was, although it seems unlikely.

However, what I can say is this: It doesn’t matter. Because regardless of whether a bomb is ballasted with lead, tungsten or depleted uranium, it blows up just the same and kills in exactly the same way, by shrapnel, over pressure and heat. And regardless of what metal it might contain, the toxicity and environmental effect is roughly the same.

Apparently some don’t get this.

Ridiculous Uranium Scare in Moldova Gets Internatonal Attention

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This is the kind of ignroance-based story that drives me nuts:

Via The Associated Press:

3 arrested in Moldova in uranium smuggling plot
CHISINAU, Moldova — Two former policemen and another person were arrested in Moldova on suspicion of trying to sell four pounds (nearly two kilograms) of uranium on the black market, authorities said Wednesday, although the amount was too small to be used in a nuclear warhead or a “dirty bomb.”

Officials identified the material as uranium-238 and said it had a value of euro9 million ($11.35 million).

Uranium-238 can be enriched into the fissile material of nuclear warheads or converted into plutonium, also used to arm nuclear missiles. Both processes are complex and need much more of the material than the amount reported seized, which also was much too little to be used for a “dirty bomb.”

Interior Ministry officials said the traffickers were trying to sell the uranium, which was kept in the garage of a former policeman, to people from unspecified countries.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner congratulated Moldova’s government for the break up of what he called a uranium smuggling ring and said an FBI team had assisted Moldovan authorities with “technical analysis.”

Moldovan authorities have sent the uranium to a German atomic center to establish the percentage of enrichment and country of origin.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna declined immediate comment on the case.

“We congratulate the Moldovan Ministry of Interior for its work in thwarting what was a serious smuggling attempt,” Toner told reporters in Washington. “Preventing nuclear smuggling is a priority for this administration, and the U.S. government continues to work with partners worldwide to thwart nuclear smuggling cases.”

I’m really stunned to see such fear and ignorance-based responses at the highest levels of the government. “serious smuggling attempt”??? Where the hell does this come from?


Exactly what happens to depleted uranium particles

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

In the past I’ve made a number of posts and videos mentioning the fact that uranium is a rather common mineral and that it’s been used in a number of consumer products. Indeed, thousands of kitchen cabinets contain uranium-glazed dinnerware, some of which was mass produced as recently as the 1980′s.

This has been met with a curious response on numerous occasions. Many concede that uranium is not all that harmful when touched or even ingested but then say “but what about the nano-particles.” The dust, or “nanoparticles” resulting from uranium combustion are one thing that seems to come up again and again. They are often credited with nearly magical properties, like the ability to stay suspended in the air indefinitely or to cause horrible health problems even in those far from the location where the uranium projectile was fired.

Indeed uranium tends to be more hazardous when inhaled than when exposure is by other routes, but that’s the extent of the truth to these statements. Uranium is hardly unique in this respect. Exposure to dust in general can cause respiratory problems, and certain metallic particles, such as beryllium, are well known to be especially hazardous if inhaled. By comparison, uranium less dangerous, though it can be a hazard in high concentrations.


Can you help identify this image?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Recent a depleted uranium debunker sent me a link to this news story “Iraq: Depleted Uranium Babies.” It’s not surprising to see yet another trumped up and unfounded news story about the supposed effects of depleted uranium, but this one stirs up one sore spot. There is a photo which is commonly used in claims about depleted uranium. Like many images, it’s not what it seems, but the source is still not known. In the past, other reputed photos of depleted uranium-enduced deformitives turned out to be taken in the US in the 1950′s, pulled from medical textbooks or from a museum in Bangkok.

The above image has been reported to show a child in Iraq after the US invasion. It’s also been claimed that it shows a child in Kosovo or Bosnia, in Afghanistan or a victim of the Chernobyl event from Ukraine or Belarus. These claims, however are false.

Perhaps you’ve seen this photo somewhere or can help trace it to its original source. Here is what we know:


2009 at Depleted Cranium

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The Depleted Cranium 2009 year in review

The Hypocrisy of Greenpeace Illustrated - Most visited post of the year and the most discussed, with a total of 144 comments

Get your damn symbols right! – Surprisingly, this one was the second place for the most visited post of the year, although not nearly as discussed, with only 36 comments.

How Homeopathy (Supposedly) Works Illustrated - Not quite at the top in terms of most visits (although it was posted relatively late in the year) However, this post stands out as having the most link-backs of any post in DC history and has an astounding 77 Facebook links and 47 tweets and re-tweets

The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn – Not as popular in 2009 as it was when it was first published, nearly two years ago, but this post continues to rank in the top ten and is the all time most visited and most commented post.

Depleted Uranium for Dinner – The most popular and commented post of a youtube video. However, this was followed closely by Apollo 11 First Steps, High Quality 16mm DAC.

Visitor loyalty was above average for a blog. More than 10% of visitors were considered “regular,” having visited several pages over the course of months. Visitor retention was also above average, with most staying for two minutes or more.

The most prolific commenter was DV82XL.


The largest refereeing sites to Depleted Cranium for 2009, not including search engines are (in order of visitors):

About 40% of visitors came from a refering site, about 30% came from search engines and about 30% came directly to Depleted Cranium in 2009.

The most common word entered into a search engine to find this site was “Organic.” Over six thousand visitors to this site got her by searching for the word “organic” or a phrase containing it.


Questions Answered For Utah’s Radiation Control Board

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Apparently the Utah Radiation Control Board has some questions about Depleted Uranium. Like any government agency, they’ve put together a committee tasked with taking as long as possible to come up with nothing in the way of clear answers. Thus, I’ll cut the whole thing short and give them all the answers they need:

Via the Salt Lake Tribune:

Is depleted uranium too hot for Utah site?


Utah’s Radiation Control Board will dig deeper into the long-term risks of depleted uranium before it decides whether the unusual form of low-level radioactive waste warrants a moratorium.

But an attorney for EnergySolutions Inc. cautioned board members about legal and technical challenges they will face if they try banning depleted uranium temporarily or permanently.

“It’s a fairly high bar” for the board to justify a moratorium, said attorney James Holtkamp.

If you’re looking to ban depleted uranium on the grounds of safety from radiation then the answer is simple: lie. That’s the only way you can get it done. The facts are not on your side thus you simply will have to make untrue statements.
Board members said they would rather have waited for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to wrap up its own in-depth study

Waiting for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? You will be waiting a long long long time. The NRC has a way of not getting useful things done… ever

how much DU, as its called, can be safely buried in a shallow disposal site like EnergySolutions’ mile-square landfill in Tooele County.

However much will fit


Israel Denies Using Depleted Uranium in Gaza, Why does it matter?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Via Reuters:

JERUSALEM, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Israel denied on Wednesday its armed forces used ordnance with depleted uranium during the Gaza Strip offensive, and said that could be proven by any U.N. investigation.

Responding to a letter from Arab envoys, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday it would consult with member states on the diplomats’ demand for a probe into whether Israeli attacks on Gaza might have featured the controversial munitions, which can leave dangerous radioactive debris.

“I deny this completely,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, adding that such allegations were “no more than a recurring motif of anti-Israel propaganda”.

Israel has also been fending off accusations that it unlawfully used white-phosphorous shells, which can cause severe burns, for the 22-day assault on the Palestinian territory.

Depleted uranium is used in weapons because it can penetrate tanks and armour more easily due to its density and other physical properties.

It is a particular health risk around impact sites, where dust can get into people’s lungs and vital organs. It also has civilian uses in medical equipment and is used in radiation shields.

Israel was accused of using depleted uranium during its 2006 offensive against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas. Palmor said a U.N. investigation failed to find any evidence of that.

“Should they decide to hassle the U.N. inspectors again, they’ll get the same results,” he said.

The IAEA has in the past contributed to studies on depleted uranium traces from ammunition in the Balkans which found it was highly unlikely that a reported increase in cancer risks there could be linked to the traces. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)

This story has been all over the news recently and in fact there hundreds of stories dealing with the accusations that Israel used depleted uranium in the weapons used in their most recent Gaza offensive. Various Muslim countries are claiming that uranium was used in the weapons, Israel claims that there were no uranium-based munitions, the IAEA says it may investigate, human rights groups are up in arms etc etc.

Personally, I don’t know enough about the recent raid to know whether or not it was justified and whether or not it was carried out within reasonable constraints to avoid undue civillian impact. Israel has been fighting for most of its history to just have some basic safety and lets not forget that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are filled with militants who would not be allowed to continue to exist in any other context period.

I tend to doubt that the weapons used in the most recent skirmish contained uranium. DU tends to be reserved for armor-penitrators because of the unique physical characteristics of the material that make it perfect for cutting through a tank like a hot knife through butter. However, it is possible that a few armor penitrator rounds may have been used or that DU may have been incorporated into the ballast of a bomb or the nose of a projectile, either to add weight or improve penetration capabilities or both. Much as I doubt it, it’s not beyond the relhm of possibility. (more…)

I guess the kids in the next town from me should be all dead soon…

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

I happen to live about two miles from Madison CT.

From the New Haven Register:

Uranium found in Madison water

MADISON — District officials will disable all water fountains at two schools and supply bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes after the schools’ water tested positive for elevated uranium levels.

Superintendent of Schools David Klein advised parents Friday that uranium, a mildly radioactive substance that can cause kidney disease, was found Thursday in water at both Kathleen H. Ryerson Elementary School and Dr. Robert H. Brown Middle School.

The uranium level was found to be 110 parts per billion, more than three times the standard accepted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for public water systems that supply homes, Klein said.

There is no standard for schools, and no testing is required for schools, said Brian Toal, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Public Health.

The tests were done after an anonymous source told school officials Oct. 28 that elevated uranium levels were found in the groundwater at a nearby property.

The Department of Public Health does not expect people who consumed the water to suffer any adverse health effects, Toal said Friday.

As a precaution, town employees will disconnect all water fountains this weekend and begin using water coolers in the halls and kitchens beginning Monday and until further notice, Klein said.

“I think the school district is responding very thoughtfully. We’ve responded expeditiously, and I think we’ve put together a plan, starting Monday, that is all about the safety of the occupants of the schools,†he said.

For the first week, the coolers will cost the school district about $555, Director of Facilities Bill McMinn said. He said he will determine future orders based on consumption.

No other Madison schools were affected because their water is provided by the Connecticut Water Company, which tests for uranium and other impurities, Klein and Department of Public Health Director John Bowers said.

Toal said students and staff exposed to the uranium need not take any action.

He said he has seen levels in Connecticut of more than 1,000 parts per billion not cause adverse effects.

“We just don’t want people, parents, to be overly concerned. If their children were drinking a reasonable amount of water, … we would not expect any adverse effects and there’s no medical testing that would be recommended or even be useful,†Toal said.

Usually, in situations when there are elevated uranium levels, building owners drill a new well or install a filtration device, Toal said.

“We will be continuing to talk to the state Health Department about any further action that we can take,†Bowers said. “Treatment is going to be very difficult.â€

Klein said he has not determined the probable cost of supplying water to the schools, and remedying the uranium levels, or where the money would come from in the budget.

“We just wanted to make sure we did the responsible thing and we will find the money to do the right thing,†Klein said.

Several parents Friday said that although they were somewhat concerned about the uranium levels, they were confident in the administration’s ability to handle the problem.

Maggie Mayer, a parent of students at both schools, said that while she found the news startling, she trusted that the situation would be handled and would not result in any health problems for her children.

“I think what did concern me is the possibility that they haven’t been testing the water all along,†Mayer said, adding that she wished school officials had taken action when the tip came in Oct. 28. “I understand that they probably didn’t even think that this was a concern, but that’s two more weeks of exposure that the kids didn’t need to have.â€

A meeting, where residents can ask questions and discuss concerns, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the Brown Middle School auditorium.

It was mentioned on the news that the “source of the uranium has not yet been determined.” Well, I can tell you what the source is right now: the local geology. Yes, that’s right. Uranium, as far as minerals go, is just not rare at all. It’s actually quite common to find uranium in a variety of rock and soil types.

The fact that the levels are “three times higher” than the federal standard for residential drinking water shouldn’t really be any reason for concern. The standards are set very conservatively and considering that most kids would be limited to a few sips from a drinking fountain, the exposure is basically neglidgable. 110 ppb is a bit higher than normal but still not really high enough to really get worried about.

Another thing to consider is that many of the students from this school likely go home to drink from wells that have just as much uranium in the water, if not more. All things considered, bringing in bottled water seems a bit silly and expensive. However, I can’t fault the school for feeling the need to. I’m sure that if they did not immediately shut off the “uranium” water fountains there would be plenty of parents screaming bloody murder about it.

Of course, if you go by the word of those who believe that Iraq, Afgahnistan and Bosnia are all contaminated forever and full of victums of depleted uranium, then shouldn’t all the students be dead by now? Or at least have some kind of hideous tumor growing on their head or something? Guess not.