Army applies for permit to ‘possess’ depleted uranium

Army applies for possession permit, says it cannot remove depleted uranium

Aug 28, 2009 – 12:38 PM | by Austin Zavala | The Hawaii Independent | Ewa

For years, U.S. Army has denied there being any use of depleted uranium weapons on training grounds in Hawaii, until two years ago when rounds were found dating back to the 1960s. The military trained with an M101 weapon, also known as the “Davy Crockett,” firing off depleted uranium (DU) rounds up until 1968 when the weapon went obsolete. After finding DU on Schofield training grounds, the Army has limited the DU findings to the Barracks on Oahu and Pohakuloa of the Big Island.

Since the first discovery of the DU on the islands, the Army has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a possession-only license of depleted uranium. According to the impact area characterization report from the Army, the amount of DU found is roughly 300 pounds over both training areas combining for more than 55,000 acres of land. This possessed amount requires the Army to hold a license by the NRC. Once the Army receives the possession-only license, they will need to implement the preplanned environmental monitory and physical security system that provides safety and protection of the public health.

The NRC, an independent federal agency that reports directly to Congress, takes the application and goes through a three-step review. They do a safety review then a security review that is put into a Safety Evaluation Report and lastly an environmental review is performed and documented. Once all three are completed, the NRC makes the decision on the application.

Submitted to the NRC on November 6, 2008, the application was accepted for review on August 3 of this year and the NRC is now the process of completing a Safety Evaluation Report.

On Tuesday, August 25, the NRC held a public meeting at Wahiawa District Park to inform anyone that was concerned with the Army’s license application. Present at the meeting were several members of the NRC, including project manager John Hayes and deputy director Keith McConnell. Some of the public in attendance ranged from surrounding community members near Schofield to Army personnel.

Since direct contact with depleted uranium can cause damage to the kidneys and lungs, there was much concern during the meeting on the monitoring system the Army will have and if it will entirely protect the public. However, the NRC assured the people in attendance that during their review process, they would make sure the monitoring system is suitable for the area.

Kyle Kajihiro, program director of the Hawaii American Friends Service Committee and DMZ-Hawaii, was in attendance and asked why the Army or NRC couldn’t just remove the depleted uranium from the area.

“To me it just sounds common sense, if I dropped a glass on the ground I would surround the area and pick it up and clean the entire area, so no one gets hurt,” Kajihiro said.

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.”

Kajihiro also expressed concern that many ancient Hawaiian cultural sites might be affected by the proposed security systems.

Hayes of the NRC said protection of the cultural sites is something they are going to cover during the environmental assessment so that anything already protected by the State of Hawaii will be protected in the Army’s monitoring system.

If the U.S. Army receives the possession-only license for depleted uranium, it will cover both trainings areas on Oahu and Big Island. The NRC is tasked with making sure that the proposed systems by the Army are being performed and will make necessary changes if the public is inadequately protected. The public has until October 13 of this year to request a hearing by electronically filing a complaint or comment, before the application is approved or not.

To send in any public comments or for more information on the license application contact John Hayes at (301) 415-5928 or email him at For more information on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission visit


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