Updated: 18-Jan-2001 NATO Information

Excerpt out of the Environmental
Exposure Report
on the use of
in the Gulf
published by the
US Department
of Defense
13 Dec. 2000


B. Health Effects from the Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium

2. DU’s Radiological Properties

Depleted uranium is composed of three uranium isotopes (234U, 235U, and 238U). Like uranium and all other elements, depleted uranium is composed of atoms, the basic building blocks of nature. In nature, uranium consists of the isotopes 234U, 235U, and 238U (each with 92 protons and electrons and 142, 143, and 146 neutrons, respectively) in a certain ratio. Depleted uranium has less 234U and 235U than natural uranium because the uranium enrichment process partially removes these isotopes, resulting in a radioactivity around 40 percent less than that of the original natural uranium.

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently reported that the DU stock it provided to DoD for manufacturing armor plates and munitions may contain trace levels (a few parts per billion parts) of transuranics (neptunium, plutonium, and americium). Transuranics are radioactive elements with higher atomic numbers (more protons and electrons) than uranium. To verify the level of transuranics in the DU stock material received from DOE, the Army tested representative samples from various batches of DU stock used to manufacture DU armor plate. From a radiological perspective, the transuranic contamination in DU armor contributed an additional 0.8 percent to the radiation dose from the DU itself. Scientists consider this insignificant considering the very low radiological hazard associated with the primary material, DU. While this issue has received considerable attention at certain DOE facilities and in the press, the implications for DoD are minimal—the quantities are so small they add very little to the radiation dose from depleted uranium itself. Both DOE and DoD concluded that measures designed to protect personnel from the DU itself are more than adequate to protect them from the trace quantities of transuranics.

Original Source: http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/du_ii/index.htm