Monday, April 02, 2007

Marquette U's New Treasure: the DU Priest-Propagandist

Seems that Marquette University just can't help itself. They keep finding wierd folks to put on the faculty.

The latest is a Fr. Harak (SJ), who has some opinions about Gulf War One. He didn't like it. He also doesn't like the current Iraq situation.

But he also has some opinions about Depleted Uranium.

His opinions on DU are, at best, ignorant. At worst, they are dishonest propaganda.

As you recall, DU was utilized by the US military for some applications, notably as shell-casings. Here's Fr. Harak's take:

“Depleted uranium,” he explained in his methodical, professorial way (having once taught ethics at Fairfield College), “is 60 percent radioactive. It is also heavy metal toxic. It is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process of nuclear weapons production from which uranium’s most radioactive isotope, U235, is recovered for re-use in new fuel rods.”

Umnnnhhh, yeah. So what?

Depleted uranium is not classified as a dangerous substance radiologically, though it is a potential hazard in large quantities, beyond what could conceivably be breathed. Its emissions are very low, since the half-life of U-238 is the same as the age of the Earth (4.5 billion years). There are no reputable reports of cancer or other negative health effects from radiation exposure to ingested or inhaled natural or depleted uranium, despite much study.

...In 2001 the UN Environment Program examined the effects of nine tonnes of DU munitions having been used in Kosovo, checking the sites targeted by it. UNEP found no widespread contamination, no sign of contamination in water of the food chain and no correlation with reported ill-health in NATO peacekeepers.

A two-year study by Sandia National Laboratories in USA reported in 2005 that consistent with earlier studies, reports of serious health risks from DU exposure during the 1991 Gulf War are not supported by medical statistics or by analysis.

Thus DU is clearly dangerous for people in vehicles which are military targets, but for anyone else - even in a war zone - there is little hazard. Ingestion or inhalation of uranium oxide dust resulting from the impact of DU munitions on their targets is the main possible exposure route.

(One could add that "people in vehicles which are military targets" are in danger regardless of the shell-casing's makeup.)

As a matter of interest, DU was also used in false teeth until the 1970's because it has exceptionally high density; meaning that it provides a lot of strength per mg.

Of course, the mere mention of "uranium" sends most folks into a tizzy--just like the mention of nuclear power calls up images of 2400 pound rabbits and 47-fingered tree-toads.

Propaganda is not just lying. It's lying artfully--with just enough truth to engender credibility--but not enough to make it clear that the propagator is a liar.


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