Depleted uranium license approved for PTA, Schofield


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a license for the possession of depleted uranium at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Isle and Schofield Barracks on Oahu.

The license, approved Wednesday, allows up to 275 pounds of depleted uranium to be possessed at the installations but does not allow for any additional use, said Michael Norato, NRC’s material decommission branch chief.

Norato said the license only covers what had previously been used in the 1960s as part of the M101 Davy Crockett program.

“It’s possession for licensed material already there,” he said.

Depleted uranium, a dense, weakly radioactive metal alloy left over from the uranium enrichment process, was used as a 6.7-ounce spotting round to mimic the trajectory of the Davey Crockett nuclear warhead during the Cold War.

The Army acknowledged that depleted uranium had been used at both sites after the discovery of fragments found at Schofield Barracks in November 2006.

It submitted a license application to the NRC in 2008.

On the Big Isle, the discovery has raised concerns among some about health impacts that may be caused by explosives used at PTA spreading contaminated dust downwind.

The Army has downplayed the threat to public health, and the license is intended to contain remnants of depleted uranium.

The license, according to the NRC, allows for inspections and requires the Army to implement a radiation safety plan and a “physical security plan.”

An air and plant sampling plan must also be submitted within 90 days.

The license does not authorize the Army to use depleted uranium or decommission the sites without additional review and approval from the NRC.

The NRC must review sampling results before deciding to lift existing restrictions or activities.

The Army intends to expand the license to include sites on the mainland.

 

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