Residents Just say no
Army’s depleted uranium claims questioned
by Chelsea Jensen
West Hawaii Today
Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:42 AM HST
Despite a report released by the U.S. Army in July saying that depleted uranium at the Pohakuloa Training Area poses no risk to the public, Big Island residents urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Wednesday evening to investigate deeper before granting the Army a license to possess the radioactive material.
“The facts scare us. We know the facts and we also know the misinformation because we’ve had two, three years of the military trying to twist the facts around to make it seem depleted uranium is safe and we have nothing to worry about,” said Meghan Isaac Magdelan. “It makes people sick and it makes people die.”
Jon Viloon added, “We need a second opinion because I’m not convinced that your calm reassurances reflect reality.”
About 40 people attended the public hearing on the U.S. Army’s application to possess residual quantities of depleted uranium on Wednesday evening at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The commission, an independent agency created by Congress, also outlined the agency’s review process and inspection and enforcement policies.
The Army’s application would cover nine locations throughout the United States, including the Pohakuloa Training Area and Schofield Barracks on Oahu, said John Hayes, a project manager for the NRC’s Materials Decommissioning Branch.
An inspection would initially only be required every two years for PTA, however, compliance could extend or decrease the period between inspections, said Region IV Inspector for the NRC’s Nuclear Materials Safety Branch Robert Evans.
Depleted uranium is the leftover byproduct of the process that enriches uranium for commercial and military use.
Following its discovery at Schofield Barracks in 2005, research led to records of 714 spotting rounds for the now-obsolete Davy Crockett weapons systems being shipped to Hawaii during the 1960s. The discovery of depleted uranium at Pohakuloa was announced in August 2007 after a single M101 spotting round was discovered. Two additional pieces of radioactive material were later found during a survey at the military training area situated between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
Among the top concerns raised by residents was the Army’s continued dropping of 2,000-pound test bombs in the area, despite the county council passing a nonbinding resolution in 2008 requesting the military halt live-fire training.
“The name ‘depleted uranium’ is very deceptive. It’s ‘lethal uranium’ — that’s what it should be called and we have a lot more knowledge about it because we have been faced with it, we are downwind of it and many of our friends have died or suffered,” said Barbara Moore, president of the Hawaii Island Health Alliance, who added that she believed radiation she was exposed to near Pohakuloa in 2007 may have lead to her being diagnosed with leukemia.
She added, “We’re asking you to stop the bombing, to close down the live fire at PTA. We want remediation. … We don’t want to kill our citizens with depleted uranium that is being blasted around in dust.”
Further, residents requested that the commission look into the effects depleted uranium radiation may have had on Hawaii’s population citing an increase in cancer, birth defects, deformations and other maladies, said Marya Mann, a local psychologist.
The public has until Oct. 13 to submit comments or to make a hearing request as outlined in the National Federal Register.