Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2
Royal Society DU panel: LLRC Gives Evidence (the paper given is on this site)
We reported in the last RaT (Vol. 4 #1) that in January the Royal Society had announced its intention to investigate the effects of depleted uranium. They attracted a lot of criticism on the grounds that the panel was unbalanced, and it was subsequently widened to give biological sciences some representation. A tenth member, Barry Smith of the British Geological Survey, has now been added to advise on environmental aspects.
The Chairman, Professor Brian Spratt, orginally hoped to produce a report this autumn, but this is not now expected until next spring. A representative from the Royal Society's science advice department said that they had found more evidence than they expected.
On 19th July LLRC's Chris Busby and Richard Bramhall went to London to give evidence at the Royal Society headquarters just off Pall Mall, where one of the Queen Mother's many birthday parties was just getting going.
A bomb alert in the morning rush hour had already brought chaotic travelling conditions to most of west London. LLRC battled through and arrived on time.
Dr Chris Busby at the Royal Society in Burlington House Terrace
Busby went straight to the heart of the problem by pointing out to the panel that what was on trial here was not DU, but Science itself. He drew attention to the sharp increase in infant leukemia in the cohort who were in the womb at the time of the Chernobyl fallout in 1986 and 87. The effect had been reported in Wales, Scotland, Germany, Greece and the United States that had been published in peer-reviewed journals.
Calculation showed that the risk factors used by ICRP for low-level exposure were seen, from these observations, to be in error by 100-fold. Since these risk factors were the same ones and based on the same data that was used to argue that Depleted Uranium exposure was harmless, he said that it was time for the whole area to be re-thought.
The problem, he added, was that Science itself had become corrupted. Scientists were using weaker deductive logic rather than inductive logic. Thus it was possible to argue from the single and inappropriate Hiroshima experiment that low level internal doses from particles were safe, rather than use induction to gather together all the many observations, Sellafield, Welsh coastal cancers, Chernobyl effects, and of course, DU and the Gulf War effects and recognise that such observations were real and could no longer be ignored.
He referred to Prof. Michael Polanyi FRS who observed (Personal Knowledge. 1957) that entrenched Science could be likened to Witchcraft and quoted Evans Pritchard, the anthropologist who wrote of the Azande tribe in Africa:They reason excellently in the idiom of their beliefs, but they cannot reason outside, or against their beliefs. The contradiction between experience and one mystical notion is explained by reference to other mystical notions.Polanyi likened such thought systems to Science, writing:Secured by its circularity and defended by its epicyclical reserves, Science may deny, or at least cast aside as of no scientific interest, whole ranges of experience which to the unscientific mind appear both massive and vital.
LLRC is feels that there is a covert operation to obtain a clean bill of health for depleted uranium. There is no doubt that the military wants to keep DU ammunition because it is so useful against armoured targets. The hardness and high density of Uranium gives it immense ability to penetrate armour plate.
Angus Parker, Vice Chair of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association in the UK, points out:-DU is only used in antitank rounds because of its inclusion in tank armour.Uranium also burns easily in air, so that once inside a tank even a small bullet turns the interior into an inferno, incinerating everything including the soldiers. Another selling point is that DU is cheap - as a very bulky byproduct of Uranium enrichment for bomb and reactor fuel it's an embarrassment to the industry.
It is ironic, he adds, That we British were the first to use it in that role.
The fact that it is also radioactive is incidental, but that is why the military needs to whitewash it.
A memo written shortly after the Gulf War by a senior US Army officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory is revealing:There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of dU on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of dU on the battlefield, dU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus be deleted from the arsenal.This sensitive issue - the fact that DU ammunition is a nuclear weapon - is what brings it into LLRC's remit.
If dU penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat activities, then we should assure their future existence (until something better is developed) through Service/DoD proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.
I believe we should keep this sensitive issue at mind when after action reports are written.
If you are seeing this page full screen (i.e. without a navigation bar on the left) you can't see how the rest of the site is organised.
This Home page link takes you to the index page, which has links to all the topics we discuss on the site [only use it if this page is full screen]
Use the Radioactive Times button to see links to the whole electronic edition on this site.
This page was last updated May 2001