by Elaine A. Hunter. July 22, 2011


Concentrated “Depleted” Uranium Munitions Emit: Alpha + Beta + Gamma rays + Neutrons + X-rays, Can Wreak Havoc in the Human Body While Waiting to be Used in Battle!

From Multiple Horses’ Mouths:  More, Much More on Ignored and Suppressed US Government and Military Data that Show the Threat of Harmful Effects of “Consolidated Quantities” of Concentrated “Depleted” Uranium (DU) Munitions

I am quaking in my genes knowing the mayhem men manufacture

Loading the ammo into an A-10 Thunderbolt Jet. The pilot sits over the “consolidated quantity” of 30mm DU + HEI munitions.

Heads up people concerned about the harmful effects of concentrated “depleted” uranium munitions, this is very important. This article is not an easy read.  If you or anyone you know and love has been around “consolidated quantities” of concentrated  “depleted” uranium (DU) munitions please read it anyway. They are a threat to the health of workers, military and civilian, national and international while they are in fabrication, transit or just sitting around waiting to be used in battle. The concentrated DU in munitions is not inert; it does not suddenly become radioactive only when it is fired in battle.

When I plugged in to what is broadcast on the internet, I was mystified that all the concern was about DU inhaled, ingested or embedded as fragments. Those aspects ARE important, without a doubt, and the most obvious. Yet unless the rest of the story is made known, the rest of the causes of illnesses and deaths of those exposed to concentrated DU will continue to be ignored. The rest of the story is this: it is not necessary for the munitions to be used in combat for them to make a person sick, even sick unto death.

From what I knew from first-hand experiences with uranium as a physics lab assistant, I knew from the get-go (2003 for me) that this would be a hard sell to the anti-DU activists who have been at it for years and anybody else affected by this radioactive quagmire. Yet I knew in my heart and mind that the beta radiation, gamma rays, x-rays and neutrons factors were essential to get the rest of the story. Thus I searched and waited, searched and waited for conclusive evidence from a source far more authoritative than myself. Research is to search and search and search and search again, sometimes for years.

Anatomy of the Gatling gun and a 30mm DU munition, both are used on A-10 Thunderbolts and Apache Helicopters.

Killer it is. The only purpose of ammunition is to kill or injure. But to kill or injure when it has not even been used in battle? To kill and injure in ways that leave no trace, no evidence except debilitating disease and death?  To personify, we have the physics equivalent of a huge gang of thugs. The case for alpha radiation has been made ad infinitum. The cases for gamma rays, x-rays and neutrons have been ignored. The physics of U-238 has been detailed over a period of time which long predates it’s use in munitions in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq and probably Afghanistan.

Enter the Horses’ Mouths: the Cases for Gamma Ray, Neutron and X-ray Emissions From Palletized, Containerized, and Stockpiled Quantities (called “consolidated quantities” by the government) of Concentrated DU Munitions

Some of the authoritative sources, the horses’ mouths were provided by the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (USDOT—PHMSA). Very troubling information was gleaned from various entries in docket 18576.

Uranium munitions are being transported countrywide and worldwide without proper HazMat ID because an exemption, DOT-E 9649, the military has through the DOT. Thanks to some very concerned activists, objections were raised to the biannual renewal of said exemption on public docket 18576.  The docket has proved to be a heavy metal treasure trove of data from multiple horses’ mouths. The most valuable document posted to that docket was the attachment to a decision letter posted on May18, 2005. Testimony to its value is that the document has since been removed, suppressed from the docket by their legal council after being public information. Some activists still have copies.

The US “Depleted” Uranium Production Triangle. “Depleted” uranium is the massive amount of leftover uranium after the enrichment process was done at the three sites shown.

Gamma Radiation Measured by a Radiation Safety Officer was High at One Meter From Pallet and Modal Conveyance

Simply put, when a whole bunch of concentrated DU ammo is gathered together in one place, the dynamics are such that gamma rays (measured by an Army Radiation Safety Officer; see docket 18576, 21 Sept 2004 letter from Army’s Crane Army Ammunition Activity, IN), are well above what is allowed by industrial standards. Some workers, both military and civilian are at risk of being radiologically maxed-out for the year in only 100 hours! None of said workers know this and none wear industry-standard badges for measuring their exposure. Here is an excerpt from the attachment to the decision letter mentioned above:

Pallet contact radiation dose rates are generally twice, and in one case, over f our times the regulatory limit for Limited Quantity materials. However, pallet and modal conveyance dose rates at one meter are generally a multiple of three to six time justifiable Limited Quantity classification, and for one sized round, six to eleven times. In the case of this latter round, inappropriate radiation exposures could occur to transport workers by being in the vicinity of the material for just 100 hours per year”.

Apache helicopter in flight. Note position of Gatling gun on the forward underside, the pilot sits over it.

Radiation safety?  Is there any such thing anymore?  When I informed a Veteran of this information, he was hopping mad.  Neither he nor his exposed co-workers, who were exposed for years had anything to monitor personal exposure.

The Case For Spontaneous Neutron Emissions From Concentrated “Depleted” Uranium

Did the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) analysis include measurements of the neutron and x-ray emission emitted from the munitions in question?  If so it was not reported in the docket.  I requested neutron and X-ray emissions measurement data, (but none have been received) for 120mm/CA26 and 25mm/A986 such as are transported to, from and stockpiles at Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). I live 15-25 miles as the crow flies from BGAD; we pass right by the ammo entry gate to BGAD very often on Highway 25 on the way to/from Richmond, KY.

Richmond has a sizable population and any munitions in transit to/from BGAD must pass through town. Naturally the reports in the docket from BGAD caught my attention. Since 2003 a new exit has been constructed from I-75 to the ammo receiving gate of BGAD. Still I-75 runs through the western business side of Richmond, you know, a big mall and other “come on off the highway and see what we’ve got to sell” that grow up along interstate highways..

To consider concentrated DU munitions as anything other than nuclear weapons is obfuscation and self-delusion of the worst sort. They are like unto serial killers; insidious, surreptitious. Neutron and X-ray emission are serious considerations which nearly everyone seems to ignore, and is of special concern in situations in which large amounts of concentrated uranium are present. This stuff is “alive.” It produces “daughters”:  Protactinium and Thorium that are in turn radioactive. The radioactive dynamics and interactions are entirely different from those experienced by that which has been used in battle.

Concentrated “depleted” uranium is mostly Uranium-238, not exclusively U-238, but it gets more complicated if we include the other isotopes which may be present and the scenario is worse than with just U-238. That said, according to one reference  from Proc. Phys. Soc., D.J. Littler, 1952: “A Determination of the Rate of Emission of Spontaneous Fission Neutrons in Natural Uranium” the rate of emission of spontaneous fission neutrons from natural uranium is computed to be 59.5+3 neutrons/g/hr of uranium.

According to another reference:  Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb Uranium-238 undergoes spontaneous fission at a rate 35 times that of Uranium-235. Though U-238 is not fissile, which means it does not sustain chain reactions, it is indeed fissionable, spontaneously fissionable.

Neutrons produced by spontaneous fission may experience:

  1. Escape
  2. Non-fission capture by uranium
  3. Non-fission capture by other elements present

The size and shape of a quantity of uranium makes a difference in the relative number of neutrons that escape or get captured; the greater the surface area, the greater number of neutrons escaping.

Neutron radiation is known to be comparable to gamma rays as regards health hazards.

Briefly and roughly stated: Uranium normally and continually emits atomic particles called neutrons, traveling at high velocity. Description of Transmutation Process

Neutron bombardment is happening to those who make the weapons and those who plan to use them, not the “enemy”, before the munitions are ever used in battle.

Neutron Bomb (Enhanced Radiation Warhead-ERW) Basics:

Graphic showing position of the Gatling gun in the A-10 Thunderbolt

  1. They kill people but leave equipment and buildings in place.
  2. The primary lethal effects of the neutron bomb come from the radiation damage caused by the neutrons it emits. Neutron radiation effects drop off very rapidly with distance.
  3. Tactical neutron bombs are primarily intended to kill soldiers who are protected by armor. Steel armor can reduce neutron radiation only by a modest amount. Armor can absorb neutrons and neutron energy, but this is offset to some extent by the fact that armor can also react harmfully with neutrons. Alloy steels for example can develop induced radioactivity that remains dangerous for some time. When fast neutrons are slowed down, the energy lost can show up as x-rays. Some types of armor, like that of some M-1 tanks, employ depleted uranium which can undergo fast fission, generating additional neurons and becoming more radioactive. (available on wayback machine)

Neutron and gamma radiation can penetrate armor or several feet of earth and is extremely destructive to living tissue. With neutron bombardment there is short-range effectiveness and no long-term contamination as it quickly dissipates after the explosion. No radioactive fallout is left behind Bomb inventor says U.S. defenses suffer because of politics

One of the most disturbing realizations about the harmful effects of neutrons is that there is no “smoking gun,” no evidence of what caused the harm. All sorts of methods could test the victims and NO test would ever reveal that neutrons (or gamma rays or x-rays) were the culprits that caused illnesses, deaths or birth defects.

Why Neutrons Are Especially Harmful To Living Tissues

  1. Neutrons are uncharged particles, thus atomic nuclei do not repel them. A neutron has mass but no electrical charge. When freed they make an extremely lethal form of radiation. The probability that a neutron (fast neutron) with an initial energy of about 1 MeV (million electron volts) will induce fission is rather low, but can be increased by a factor of hundreds when the neutron is slowed down through a series of elastic collisions with light nuclei such as hydrogen, deuterium, or carbon. The preferred way of slowing down neutrons is to cause them to pass through material of low atomic weight, such as hydrogenous material!
  2. Neutrons are particularly effective in initiating nuclear reactions if they pass through water. The light atoms in water absorb some of the neutrons’ energy and do so without absorbing the neutrons themselves [elastic collisions]. Neutrons are thus slowed down to the point they moved with only the speed of molecules at room temperature. These thermal neutrons stay in the vicinity of a particular nucleus a longer fraction of a second and are more likely to be absorbed than fast neutrons.
  3. The human body is hydrogenous material – a well organized body of water (75% or more), with some heavier atoms and molecules thrown in – which is damaged or destroyed when it becomes a small-scale water-moderated nuclear reactor by absorbing neutron emissions.

Below are very rough calculations of neutron emissions. We need real life measurements of neutron emissions. Military and civilian workers who are in harm’s way have the right to know.

TABLE 1:  Analysis neutron emission from 25 mm/A986 DU Explosives 1.2 M919, UN 0328 in a PA-125 container [30 each per container, 1260 per pallet] Source of information on types of loads: Comment RSPA-2004-18576-268 from Radiation Safety Officer of Blue Grass Army Depot

Load Quantity                        Weight [grams]+         Theoretical Neutrons/Hr++
Pallet: 1260/pallet                                  186,480                      11,095,560Truck Trailer: 17 pallets                      3,170,160                    188,624,520

Rail Car Full: 48 pallets                       8,951,040                    532,586,880

MilVan Full: 15 pallets                         2,797,200                    166,433,400

  • Weight of DU in one 25mm round is variously listed as 148 or 150 grams; for these calculations the 148-gram weight has been used.
  • Rate of Spontaneous Fission Neutrons from Uranium (59.5+3 neutrons/g/hr) is the rate used in the calculations.

It is important to note that radiation emitted to the outside of containers is emitted in all directions around the container.  Also, alpha and beta radiation would not penetrate to the outside.

Views of typical 25mm DU rounds are available at:

  1. Cross-sections of a 25 mm/A986 DU Explosives 1.2 M919
  2. M919 Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot With Tracer (APFSDS-T)
  3. Another rendering of a Cross-section of a 25mm/A986 DU Explosive

Radiation Being Emitted by Consolidated Quantities of Concentrated “Depleted” Uranium Ammunition Not Yet Used in Battle Affects:

1. Workers in ammunition manufacturing facilities, military and civilian.

Close-up of Apache's Gatling gun showing ammo feed.

2. Truck drivers, both military and civilian who transport these munitions.

3. Anyone else military or civilian who must spend long hours in close proximity of

stockpiled concentrated “depleted” uranium ammunition.

4. Workers, military and civilian engaged in demilitarization of DU munitions.

A few examples of those who are likely to be at high risk are:  anyone who sat on ammo boxes for long periods of time; pilots of A-10 Thunderbolt Warthogs and Apache Helicopters, as they sat right over their payloads of 30mm concentrated DU munitions while on sorties.

Beta Radiation can Cause X-ray Emissions

As to X-ray emission it is due to Bremsstrahlung or braking radiation caused by an accelerated particle such as a beta radiation electron interacting with the nucleus of atoms such as in steel, aluminum, or other DU munitions. The two first daughters of U-238 decay are Thorium-234 and Protactinium-234, both of which are known to emit beta radiation***.   The Bremsstrahlung process happens inside the containers, the X-rays can exit through container walls.  Just as neutron emission must not be ignored, X-ray emission must also be considered.

Cancer Not Considered a War Wound–How Outrageous

Few doctors of today are scarcely better prepared to understand what has happened to, what is going on with mysteriously sickened patients exposed to the various types of radiation than the doctors of sickened survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped.

Graphic showing the ability of various types of radiation to penetrate substances. It shows neutrons passing through a hand. This is somewhat misleading. Neutrons can be readily absorbed by hydrocarbons, such as the human body.

It is nothing less than a betrayal, hypocritical and outrageous that military personnel have been required to be exposed to a nuclear quagmire, yet if they develop cancer it’s not a wound of war?  Surely this means that they cannot receive service connected disability even if their cancer was caused by the weapons they were required to use or be in the proximity of.

From an article by R. B. Stuart: “When my sister, 101st Airborne Army Capt. Chaplain Fran E. Stuart, returned from Iraq, she was gripped by cancer. The US military says cancer isn’t a war wound. Soldiers I talked to at Walter Reed said the same thing: Cancer is not a “war wound,” so the military denies responsibility.” Iraq Cancer Depleted Uranium

Any way you look at it, the closer you look, the uglier the radioactive quagmire gets.  Hopefully the wars will end.  The harms done by the use of radioactive weapons will never end.


About the writer: Dr. Prof. Elaine Hunter is an Independent Researcher. Feel free to contact her at: uncommon.eyes at A  late-comer to the concerns about DU munitions, was shocked when she learned she lived in the midst of the US DU “production” triangle. She grew up a pre-boomer WWII military brat.

Background information: Docket 18576 of the DOT: There is a Docket on the DOT website, Docket 18576. This docket was a two-year review of Exemption DOT-E-9649: Depleted Uranium Explosive Munitions, an exemption that allowed shipment of DU munitions within the USA, by means of railcar, MilVan, and tractor-trailer (modal conveyances**) without placards indicating their cargo is radioactive. The placards only indicated the cargo is explosive. The docket identifier is PHMSA-RSPA-18576. The website for the docket has been changed so many times it is more difficult to use than in the early days of 2004.

Modal Conveyance: GovSpeak for MilVan, Rail Car or 18-Wheeler Trailer


Concentrated “depleted” Uranium (primarily Uranium-238): The munitions in question contain solid rods of Uranium and it’s daughter products, Protactinium-236 and Thorium-236, both of which emit beta radiation; plus impurities which may also be radioactive such as Plutonium; plus Uranium-234 after radioactive decay of Thorium-236. The term “depleted” is misleading. The Uranium is depleted([though not completely) of Uranium-235 through outrageously expensive methods of isotope separation.

It’s very important to note that Pa-236 and Th-236 have very short half lives, making them “very” radioactive. Much attention is given to long half-lives of millions and billions of years. Isotopes with short half-lives do their damage in very short time frames, making them potentially most harmful.