Saturday, August 29, 2009

Musings: What Else is Here?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was in Hawaii this week, conducting public hearings on the Army’s application for a permit to possess some 17,600 pounds of radioactive depleted uranium.

Yes, after denying for years that it used the toxic material in the Islands, the Army was finally forced to ‘fess up after the facts came to light in documents produced during litigation over the use of Makua for live fire training.

As I reported in the current issue of Honolulu Weekly:

It’s unclear how much DU is located in the Islands, or exactly where. Initial surveys were conducted at just three Hawaii installations, and the effort was severely limited by dense vegetation, rugged terrain and what the military characterized as “safety considerations” due to unexploded ordnance.

“This is exactly the problem,” said Kyle Kajihiro, executive director of the American Friends Service Committee. “If you don’t look, you don’t find and you don’t have to report and be accountable for it.”


Actually, that’s just one of the problems. Another is that what has been confirmed is located on live fire ranges at Schofield Barracks on Oahu and the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area. And that leads to yet another problem:

When DU is burned or exploded, it creates tiny particles of depleted uranium oxide (DUO) that travel on the wind and can penetrate skin, respiratory masks and protective clothing, said Dr. Lorrin Pang, a medical advisor to Hawaii County on the issue of DU.

“If it’s inhaled, then it’s in your lungs,” Pang said. “[It’s] insoluble and persists in the body for decades and becomes the most dangerous form of radiation of all, because it’s in the body.”


Before you dismiss Dr. Pang as some sort of nutcase, check out the Department of Defense’s own Depleted Uranium (DU) Radiation Awareness Training Video.

It clearly states the two threats associated with DU — heavy metal toxicity and radioactivity — and outlines precautions that troops should take to minimize them. The video includes the warning:

Avoid the threat of contamination, particularly the depleted uranium dust.

And it ends with this statement:

Bottom line, unless you’re involved in a detonation or fire with DU, the hazards are relatively small.

It was precisely that concern over the detonation of DU and subsequent spread of contaminated dust that prompted the Big Island County Council to pass a resolution in 2008 asking the Army to halt live-fire training in DU contaminated areas.

The Army hasn’t done that, and instead in July issued a report contending the public is not at risk from DU at Pohakuloa. According to an article in The Hawaii Independent, NRC staff echoed that stance in a public meeting held on Oahu:

[Deputy director Keith] McConnell replied: “The DU found is not an issue of safety to the public because the levels of radiation and radioactivity of the DU is so low. Since the range is currently active, decommissioning is not possible. Until the training area is inactive or not being used, it can’t be fully cleaned up.”

However, in their denials of public health risks, both the Army and NRC skirted the issue of dust, even as they acknowledged that DU is in active training areas and can’t be cleaned up. That means it’s subject to being detonated and/or burned, which means dust can indeed be created and, in a windy place like Hawaii, blown just about anywhere.

Needless to say, after hearing the Army lie for years about the presence of DU, folks are leery about trusting the official line that the stuff poses no harm – especially when its own training video states otherwise.

In a further erosion of trust, the Army hasn’t exactly been forthcoming since the presence of DU was revealed:

Kajihiro said the Army has stalled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests he made in 2007 seeking more details about contamination at Schofield and Pohakuloa.

“There’s just been a sustained effort to keep the public in the dark and bury this,” Kajihiro said. “There needs to be some sort of call to account by the Army: why was this material here and why didn’t you know about it?”


But as I reported in The Weekly, the Army's permit application is structured to minimize its accountability:

The Army is pursuing a single permit to possess and manage residual quantities of DU at all of its American installations. The Army’s disclosure responsibilities under the permit application are limited to the big Davy Crocket round, even though uranium munitions are used in more than 24 weapons systems. The Army’s application does not address DUO.

And that leads us to yet another pressing question associated with the military’s presence in Hawaii: what else is here that they either don’t know about, or haven’t told us about?

It’s worth thinking about, and asking about, what with a big chunk of Kauai’s Westside devoted to PMRF, which the Navy intends to use to conceive, test and deploy a new breed of weaponry and warfare.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

We need all that stuff. Let the mil do their thing.

Anonymous said...

I think it should be noted that Dr. Pang is a well respected public health official who speaks his mind on these kinds of issues to protect the interest of public health. I think the State is fortunate to have someone of his caliber that will not be swayed by politics, power and money.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Conrow,

If in fact you are concerned wih covering all sides of the issue you would know that the Army has made considerable efforts to be transparent with the facts and the science involved. I refer you to an active, open web site where the Army has posted its reports, reports from independant agencies and on-going efforts: http://www.imcom.pac.army.mil/du/index.htm

Dr. Pang has stated publically that he is not concerned w/the hazard the Army has identified and disclosed. He is concerned w/DU from what he terms "ballisitc" or kinetic DU. There is no indication that type of weapon has been used in Hawaii and has been prohibited in any training environment since 1995. The type of gamma dectectors used do not discriminate on what the radioactive source is and are sensitive enough to pick up anyhting on the range that is radioctive.

To date the Army has removed all the DU detected at Pohakuloa and, if it could be dectected anyhting else would be removed as well.

The State Department of Health has been a full partner in all efforts to deal with DU.

Anonymous said...

dr pang is worth his weight in gold to the hawaii far left: (1) he knows the hard, deep science pretty darn well, (2) he can quickly communicate this science in terms everyday persons can understand, and (3) he is careful to not get stuck on uttering something patently false but can still "set up" his presentations to leave a worse case scenario in the minds of listeners (which i suspect is substantially politically motivated). a good citizen overall for sure


as to "what else is here that they either don’t know about, or haven’t told us about?"

-- hopefully some railguns, as they are bitchin (and if scaled up right, would negate the need for DU rounds)


RE PMRF... kauai is lucky as hell to have it


dwps

Anonymous said...

dwps: RE PMRF... kauai is lucky as hell to have it

strange choice of words.

Anonymous said...

"dr pang is a good citizen overall for sure"

Mahalo Dr. Pang for all you do.

Anonymous said...

QUICK POLL: DO YOU BELIEVE THE ARMY? - DU at POHAKULOA

MAUI PEACE ACTION
QUICK POLL in West Hawaii Today newspaper: DO YOU BELIEVE THE ARMY? - Depleted Uranium at POHAKULOA

aloha~
please take this quick poll!

3/4 down the page on right at http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/
mahalo!

Anonymous said...

"There was a post where it made a meaningful difference but Joan kept "disappearing" it. Unless you've had Joan disappear your news lately you wouldn't have noticed that she no longer lets everyone know with a "this comment has been deleated."

-- yes, as with "Musings: Lotsa Laughs" on Friday, August 28, 2009 where this can no longer be found:

Anonymous said...

mmmm...burger...

August 28, 2009 5:01 PM


a meaningful or funny comment? no. but the site is the owner's IP...can do with as is seen fit

and sure there is censorship here, but you know - what, you expecting a lot? its aint the bbc or newshour or anything. personally, i would rather it be here even as is with current defects, rather than not here. some of the views and attitudes here are very insightful - i am glad it can be documented


dwps

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous August 29, 2009 10:37 AM

The website makes claims and references without actual data to prove DUoxide safety. Even the National Academy of Sciences says that health effects of DU (and related oxides remain unknown. The Army (and others) used to claim the Army’s friendly fire study as the definitive study of inhaled DU & DUOxide safety. Can the responder please tell us all why this study has since been determined to be a scientific farce? You owe us that much.

I stated publicly that I am not concerned with ballistic projectiles if they remain unburned. I repeatedly give the cigarette analogy. Cigarettes are not dangerous until lit. I am worried most about inhaled DU especially of the DUoxide forms which occur with burning. There are two ways that this might occur – 1) from use of projectile penetrator DU (whether or not the Army has records of this, esp before 1995 when the weaponry existed but prohibition did not). 2) Continued bombing of the DU ballast fragments with conventional bombs may burn them and rendered them into dangerous forms. I am not satisfied with the Army’s claims that “no records” means “no use”. Their survey methods and interpretation I and others feels are very inadequate. Bad records and bad surveys – I don’t think that the public will or should buy it. Perhaps the risks don’t exist but I do not see valid facts to show this only promises and claims. Why is it that I am still willing to debate them publicly but now they decline? I was to represent the Big Island Council as part of the community/army team to assess the DU issue. Get the Army to invite me back. Perhaps the responder would like to publicly debate this issue with me.

Dr. Lorrin Pang

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, troll droppings and insults have been and will continue to be vigorously expunged, and ain't nobody gonna cry about it but the trolls.

Anonymous said...

"Since the range is currently active, decommissioning is not possible"

hahhahahah..... I love Humor in Uniform. Here is what Zeno said on the subject:
"If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless."

NO CAN DO CITIZEN!

Anonymous said...

Notice how the issue of not posting that many posts are silently deleted is sidestepped.

Anyhow, the DU issue is overblown over the fear of anything remotely "nuclear". Kinda like how we are gonna have to build ALOT of fission plants to get around oil energy. As far as DU in munitions, what are they supposed to use - rubber bullets?

Anonymous said...

dwps said - "his presentations to leave a worse case scenario in the minds of listeners (which i suspect is substantially politically motivated)."

You suspect? I thought it was just and appropriate application of the precautionary principle - "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

dust-in-the-wind

Ed Coll said...

"Perhaps the responder would like to publicly debate this issue with me.

Dr. Lorrin Pang"

I seriously doubt that! Silence is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Pretty obvious that Anon 10:37 AM is a PR Pooper Scooper Flak for the Army trying (and failing) to fly under the radar with poorly crafted gray propaganda.

"gray propaganda - gray propaganda propaganda that does not specifically identify any source.." The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. 2001.

Anonymous said...

Troll Droppings August 30, 2009 8:04 AM said:
"Notice how the issue of not posting that many posts are silently deleted is sidestepped."

Yeah Joan! Why not first post a post you want to delete and then delete it, or if you want to avoid this two-step just provide a monthly Harpers style post like "Number of monthly unpublished Troll Droppings ## as a public service for the kooky and curious?

Brad Parsons said...

You see the current poll on the Big Island at:

http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/

Poll Results

The U.S. Army says there is no danger or health risk posed by depleted uranium ordnance at Pohakuloa Training Area:

I believe what the Army says and am not concerned for my health.
(25 Votes, 9%)

I'd like to believe the Army's report but will not be satisfied without an independent risk assessment of the depleted uranium situation.
(62 Votes, 22%)

I don't believe a word the Army says. Bring in outside experts and let the truth be known.
(191 Votes, 69%)

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe a word the Army says. Bring in outside experts and let the truth be known.
(191 Votes, 69%)"

wow! Its always a good day for a revolution. Tick, tick.

Anonymous said...

"I thought it was just and appropriate application of the precautionary principle"

-- precautionary principle adherence would mean no electric cars (potential electromagnetic wave danger via motor), no cell phones (radiation), no high power utility lines, no food irradiation, etc etc. so no thanks on that one, for me at least. "precautionary measures" - reasonable. "precautionary principle" - tends to reflect personal politics more than science

as with decisions, science betters polls too... do polls sans science = troll droppings? not if in line with personal preferences it seems

"WestHawaiiToday.com online polls are not intended to be a scientific sample of local or national opinion. Instead, they are a way for readers to share their views on the news with West Hawaii Today reporters and editors and with fellow Web site users.**Respondents are not randomly selected, but select themselves to vote on a specific question. In addition, while westhawaiitoday.com online polls are designed to allow only one vote per user, savvy users may find ways around this limitation. For these reasons, the polls are not presented as scientific surveys or as representative of the opinion of the general population of our readership areas, the region or the nation."

http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/?poll=137&total=0


dwps

Anonymous said...

dwps said: "-- precautionary principle adherence would mean no electric cars (potential electromagnetic wave danger via motor), no cell phones (radiation), no high power utility lines, no food irradiation, etc etc. so no thanks on that one, for me at least."

Well There is a growing body of evidence that cancers, global warming, and systemic collapses may be results for such hubris. From radioluminescent paint on watch dials and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the air to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and species jumping pandemics we are living in a toxic stew. Now radioactive dust is safe? As someone who evidently thought Darwin was pretty smart I wonder if Darwin thought humankind was smart enough to bypass biological evolution and become gods themselves through transgenic engineering. I personally think our success as a species is an open question (although we seem to be kicking the honeybees ass). It does seem clear to me however that application of the precautionary principal to the electric motor when compared to the internal combustion engine leaves little doubt that the electric motor is far less harmful. Both Ford and Edison agreed and envisioned an electric powered transportation future, but greedy cartels bent on replacing the horse with combustion engines displaced both science and the precautionary principal.

Don't want to sound alarmist but a multi-equalibra catastrophic and cascading systemic collapse could be just around the corner and by the time humankind see it for what it is it will be to late an civilization will pop like a soap bubble. Sure its not the end of the world, except as "we" know it.

Ed Coll said...

"Respondents are not randomly selected, but select themselves to vote on a specific question."

Any poll that allows self-selection and multiple sock puppet voting through IP address spoofing by the self-selected is useless crap to anyone but a coordinated propaganda campaign bent of influencing public perception.

Anonymous said...

This disclaimer;
"WestHawaiiToday.com online polls are not intended to be a scientific sample of local or national opinion. Instead, they are a way for readers to share their views on the news with West Hawaii" is also not accurate as such "polls" only allow readers to "share" their views in a WHT agenda setting context. The fix on what is of importance is already in.

Anonymous said...

August 30, 2009 6:26 PM if i may repond

as to transgenic engineering, fine w/ me (as is messing with stem cells to fix people, or related RnD). im pro nano tech too; we need PV paint

as to "kicking the honeybees ass," that was pretty funny :)

i noted the electric motor thing as it has raised eyebrows with some as they think the emitted waves are similar to those generated by some power lines which have been shown to interfere with the internal navigational system in some animals. but hey i love EVs, and big magnetic electric motors have been around for a while, the more the better

that taleb guy did everybody a favor for sure with this "black swan" work. at the same time, in my view, most "the sky is falling people" are less than impressive and i trust they'll fail w/ their precautionary principle "set up"

but look im not defending DU, the subject of this KE item. will the DU issue be fairly presented here? no. does the US military often fail to clean up well proving groups? yep (i know as a family member was once hired to clean up a mess at a base in panama). so are military pollutants a legit issue? of course. is this issue more important given the nature and rarity of the HI environment? sure seems like it should be


dwps

Roger Helbig said...

Dr Pang misuses science for the far left - he takes what little science that he knows - having Dr before your name does not mean anything if Pang has no expertise in the subject and his statements on DU make it clear that he knows very little and imagines a lot. Conrow claims to have been a journalist of some note - it is time that she gets out and does some real leg work and finds out who the liars are and why they tell the lies. She can start with Pang, then go on to Leuren K Moret of Berkeley and others. How much money was paid to Moret to get her to come to Hawaii?

Joan Conrow said...

Since you brought up the subject of payoffs, Mr. Helbig, perhaps you'd like to start by disclosing the details of your own financial arrangements with the DOD.

Brad Parsons said...

See also:

http://www.hawaii247.org/2009/08/27/armys-depleted-uranium-application-now-before-nrc/

and

http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2009/08august/20090829nrc.html

Latest on the poll:

The U.S. Army says there is no danger or health risk posed by depleted uranium ordnance at Pohakuloa Training Area:

I believe what the Army says and am not concerned for my health.
(35 Votes, 11%)

I'd like to believe the Army's report but will not be satisfied without an independent risk assessment of the depleted uranium situation.
(68 Votes, 21%)

I don't believe a word the Army says. Bring in outside experts and let the truth be known.
(216 Votes, 68%)

Kolea said...

Anyone know anything about traces of DU on Kahoolawe? The military scattered anti-personnel weapons across sections of the island, despite their legal obligation to clean the island up and return it to the state.

They used conventional TNT to simulate a small atom bomb and managed to bust through the cap rock which retained the floating aquafier.

In the South Pacific and Nevada, they exposed military personnel and Pacific islanders to intense radiation in order to monitor the ill-effects of such exposure.

They have been wildly irresponsible in the past and will only behave sensibly if we demand it of them.

Has Kahoolawe been surveyed for DU at all? Even haphazardly? If not, why not? If so, how complete was it and what was found?

Thanks

Joan Conrow said...

Kolea,

I have a friend who was a Navy pilot and participated in the bombing of Kahoolawe. He said he is certain that DU munitions were used there.

I also contacted Kyle Kajihiro about Kahoolawe and this is what he said:

I once asked Sol Kaho’ohalahala, former ED of KIRC {Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission], if they looked for DU weapons. I sent him a list of DU penetrator rounds, and he searched the KIRC database. He said none of the weapon types they found on Kaho’olawe matched the DU descriptions. Of course, if DU penetrators were used and hit their mark, the round would have burned up as intended, leaving no identifiable fragments. He told me that the KIRC had radiation monitors that the staff are supposed to carry with them for sweeping the island. But he admitted that he didn’t think anyone has really done that. I don’t know if the KIRC is surveying for DU now. I doubt it. I don’t know if the Navy surveyed the island for these types of munitions. I have not even seen a study of the chemical contamination of the island due to the munitions expended there.