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Bombing comes home The Daily Planet received a copy of this letter addressed to the mayor and City Council:

Leuren Moret Berkeley
Tuesday October 30, 2001

Margo Shafer is right - the bombing of Afghanistan by U.S .government forces is our problem. I commend Councilmember Dona Spring for bringing this forward for debate. It is not true that it is happening “over there” so that it doesn’t affect us “over here.” Citizens must get good information in order to make good decisions and participate fully to ensure a democratic government. We are part of a global community, and should be informed and interested in government policy which does not directly affect us in our local community.  

The United States has hundreds of thousands of tons of depleted uranium piled in heaps outdoors at DOE facilities. It is 99.5 percent of what is left when the most fissionable isotope (one of three) is extracted from naturally occurring uranium. The extracted uranium is used in nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel for nuclear reactors. The 99.5 percent that is discarded cannot be put back into the mines it came out of because, after crushing and processing, the volume is greater than before it was removed from the mines. 

The Department of Defense got the bright idea of using DU in weapons because (1) it is very dense giving it greater penetrating power to destroy tanks etc. (2) it is pyrophoric – upon impact, it explodes into fire and smoke creating submicroscopic radioactive particles which travel great distances and can remain suspended until “rained out” of the atmosphere, (3) it is radioactive and will continue acting internally long after the battlefield has been cleared - with delayed effects which continue acting on soldiers and civilians the rest of their lives (4) it is cheap and passes the responsibility for disposal from DOE on to civilians (that means us) and the environment. The half life of uranium is 4.5 billion years - in 10 half lives radioactivity becomes an insignificant amount. In 45 billion years it will no longer be a danger. In other words - it’s “fun” for the DOD, it’s “cheap” for the arms manufacturers (at good profits), and “good riddance” says DOE. 

The United States has manufactured, used, tested DU in 39 states. The cleanup bill - just for the DU - at the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana would be $7.8 billion. It has not been cleaned up, but DOD has closed it. Communities living near these test ranges will continue to be exposed and suffer health problems. The Sierra Army Depot in California, for 40 years, has burned millions of tons of old munitions – including 20 times more DU than used in the Gulf War. The radioactive ash full of heavy metals, phosgene gas and dioxins contaminated local communities as well as Native American communities downwind - especially the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation. The health problems in those communities has been horrendous. The Sierra Army depot burned old munitions in open pits - and was the single largest contributor to air pollution in California - 17-23 percent. 

Did anyone in this city know that, or do anything to inform the citizens? I doubt that anyone was aware or informed. Several months ago I made a short presentation to the Peace and Justice Commission. Norman Harry, former Pyramid Lake Tribal Chairman, and Senator Harry Reid worked with others to shut it down. Less than a month ago Lassen County refused to renew the burn permit for the Sierra Army Depot - finally. 

The United States has used DU weaponry in the Gulf War, Kosovo, Serbia, Vieques Island, Torishima Island near Okinawa, Japan, and sold it to at least 23 countries. Israel uses it nearly daily on the Palestinians. It is in the arsenal the United States is using on Afghanistan. It can be detected on gamma meters in Greece and Bulgaria on windy days. It’s the weapon that “keeps giving”... 

Leuren Moret