Army Wants License for Depleted Uranium in Hawaii

United States Army

Mention depleted uranium, or DU, and most people draw a blank. But the radioactive, man-made heavy metal is the focus of a growing controversy both here in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world.

Internationally, concerns have been raised about the long-term health and environmental effects of using DU to make bullets and shells more pervious and armored tanks impervious. Locally, similar fears have been expressed about the DU weapons present on at least two Army bases — Schofield Barracks on Oahu and Pohakuloa Training Area on Big Island.

The Army long denied that DU weapons had ever been used in Hawaii, but the advocacy law firm Earthjustice inadvertently came across e-mails to the contrary in 2006. The Army subsequently confirmed that contractors had discovered tail assemblies from the M101 spotting rounds while clearing a training range at Schofield in 2005. It acknowledged the DU rounds were used for training on the Davy Crockett — one of the smallest nuclear weapons ever built — in Hawaii and at least seven other states throughout the 1960s.

The Army is now asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an after-the-fact license to possess a maximum of 17,600 pounds of DU at all of its American installations. The Army has no plans to remove or clean up the DU in Hawaii.

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