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Joint Munitions Command Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet

Joint Munitions Command Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet
This was issued by the Joint Munitions Command regarding depleted uranium and the Milan arsenal.

Depleted Uranium demilitarization equipment from Iowa AAP will move to

Milan AAP under this contract. 
In January 2008, JMC issued a competitive request for proposals for the

operation and maintenance of both plants.  In its proposal, AO proposed

to relocate production of munitions and subassemblies from Milan AAP to

Iowa AAP.  These items include the 40-millimeter family of munitions,

M-112 Demo Block, Mine Clearing Line Charge, Spider, 60mm and 81mm

mortars, and mortar components.  Additionally, AO contractually

committed to redeveloping Milan AAP as a commercial logistics center,

while maintaining certain military capabilities there.

Fact Sheet:  Depleted Uranium

1. What depleted uranium operations are associated with the contract? 

No operations involving DU are associated with the new contract.

 

2. What is the additional DU work that AO is discussing?

The EA mentions a possibility of DU demil equipment moving to Milan, but

no DU demil operations are planned or included in this contract. 

3. Is the Army authorizing the storage of this DU waste at Milan AAP? 

The storage of the current inventory of DU munitions at Milan is

authorized by their Nuclear Regulatory Commission license.  As stated

above, there is no plan to generate or store any DU waste at Milan.

4. What is the process for demilitarizing depleted uranium ammunition?

When no longer needed, the Army sends DU munitions to designated

facilities for disassembly into component parts.   

Disassembly renders the rounds unusable for their original military

purpose, so is considered demilitarization. 

 

During disassembly the various components are separated from each other

and determined which will be re-used, recycled or disposed.  The DU

components are either recycled or sent to licensed sites for disposal.

In general, the disassembly process is as follows:

*    Tank rounds are removed from the shipping containers.

*    The cartridge case and projectile assembly are separated.

*    The cartridge case is disassembled into subcomponents.

*    The projectile assembly is disassembled into subcomponents. 

*    All like components are collected and kept together pending

disposition.

*    The DU components are re-packaged and stored pending shipment

for recycle or disposal.

American Ordnance successfully disassembled hundreds of thousands of

tanks rounds at Iowa Army Ammunition Plant from the mid-1990s until

shutting down the operation in 2010.  Workers wore radiation measuring

devices, filter systems were used at work stations where the DU

component was directly handled, and radiological surveys of the

disassembly line were made to detect possible contamination.  No

incidents occurred during the entire operation.   

5. Has there ever been a contamination event from DU at the Iowa

arsenal?

No.  Iowa AAP has never experienced an accident (such as mass fire or

explosion) involving DU ammunition. 

6. Was DU ever stored at the Milan Arsenal?

Milan AAP has stored DU ammunition and components for many years.  These

storage operations have been conducted in full compliance with a storage

license obtained from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the

early 1980s.  The NRC, and the state oversee and inspect facilities

nationwide to ensure the safe storage of radiological materials.  That

license continues to be in effect.

7.  What are the risk factors from radioactivity?

With any radioactive material, the risk factor is a small increase in

the chance for developing a cancer.  Although unsafe exposures are very

unlikely, workers conducting DU disassembly operations wear radiation

monitoring badges to check for radioactivity levels.  These monitoring

badges have detected low levels of external radiation, but these low

levels do not pose a risk to personnel working around it.  The NRC (and

in some cases the state) has inspected Army DU disassembly operations,

and monitoring results to ensure that the workplace is safe.    The NRC,

EPA, and OSHA have all studied the low levels of radiation, and have

concluded that external radiation levels from DU ammunition or

components are not expected to cause adverse health effects.

8. What are the risk factors from the inhalation of DU in dust?

There is essentially no risk of inhaling DU particles during DU

ammunition disassembly operations since there is no cutting, grinding or

welding of the DU ammunition or components.  They must be involved in a

serious accident such as mass fire or explosion for significant amounts

to become airborne.   Safety is such a high priority at both Milan and

Iowa Army Ammunition Plants that no accidents involving DU have ever

occurred.   

9. Would the demilitarization of DU containing weapons expose workers to

either of those hazards?

Worker exposure is highly unlikely because the inhalation risk during

routine operations is minor and external radiation levels are low and

very manageable.   Safety professionals from the NRC, the state of

Tennessee, as well as the Army and American Ordnance, are dedicated to

protecting workers.  Workers wear gloves, coveralls, and are reminded

not to touch their face, and wash their hands after working around DU.

Radiological surveys are regularly conducted during DU ammunition

disassembly (demil) operations to verify radiation levels are low, and

to find and correct any hazards before they could potentially become a

problem.   

10. Would workers working around DU have to wear special suits or air

masks or other protective gear?

No, special protective suits and respirators are not required to work

around DU.  Protective equipment is based on decades of scientific study

on uranium performed by many expert agencies, to include the World

Health Organization, the NRC, and the IAEA.  Employees working with DU

wear gloves, coveralls, and radiation monitoring badges. 

11. Would special facilities have to be built to keep DU exposure

threats from civilians?

No special facilities are needed, other than a filter system at one or

two locations on the disassembly line to catch small pieces of DU oxide

that could potentially flake off the DU component when directly handled.

Only during the unlikely event of a mass fire or explosion directly

involving DU would there be any risk to the local community.  These

kinds of events have never occurred at Milan or Iowa AAP, and are

strictly hypothetical.  However, such events are part of the facility’s

crisis response plan, which is routinely practiced in cooperation with

local community response agencies. 

12. What are the possibilities of DU contamination to residents from the

transportation of armor or weapons containing DU through town?

Transportation accidents involving military munitions are rare.  They

are so rare that in the past 20 years, none have occurred at either

Milan or Iowa AAP.  Although unlikely, a transportation accident that

involves a fire could pose a low risk to those nearby, which is why

transportation scenarios are included in each facility’s crisis response

plans.

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