SK Uranium in Weapons

I’ve posted more than once on the topic of Saskatchewan’s uranium.  Here’s another.  Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility has written this brief bit (emphasis mine):

The Role of Saskatchewan Uranium In Weapons

Here are some facts and thoughts on the role of depleted uranium in weapons, both those of the conventional type and those of the nuclear variety.

Natural uranium is 99.7 percent U-238 and 0.7 percent U-235. Uranium Enrichment is a process by which the percentage of U-235 is boosted beyond the 0.7 percent mark. This can only be done by discarding a large amount of U-238, which will still contain a small amount (0.2 percent to 0.4 percent) of U-235. This cast-off uranium is called depleted uranium (DU).

As you may know a tremendous amount of Canadian uranium, and in particular Saskatchewan uranium, has been enriched in the USA before being sent on to overseas customers. [It’s not just the stuff we sold to the US, but the stuff we sold to other countries that was first enriched in the US before being sent (as enriched uranium for use as reactor fuel) to various other customers.]

But to produce just 1 kg of 5% enriched uranium requires an input of over 11.8 kg of natural uranium, and results in 10.8 kg of depleted uranium [having about 0.3 % U-235].

When the enriched uranium is shipped to the customer, the depleted uranium is left behind at the US enrichment plant. In other words, over 90% of all Canadian (or Saskatchewan) uranium that was ever sent to USA for enrichment (for peaceful purposes as nuclear reactor fuel) has remained in the USA as depleted uranium (DU). There is absolutely no distinction between the DU of Canadian origin (or Saskatchewan origin) and the DU of other origins (US, Australian, etc.) It all goes into the same very large stockpile of DU. And a portion of this large stockpile of DU has always been used freely and without any compunctions by the US military for military purposes.

It is a perfectly fair and factual statement to say that whatever the percentage might be of Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium as a fraction of the total through-put at US uranium enrichment plants, that same percentage is found in the US DU stockpiles.
It is by no means an insignificant fraction. Thus there is some Canadian-origin (Saskatchewan) uranium in virtually every US DU weapon.

Most people do not realize that the SAME DU stockpile was also used for half a century — and more — to produce the plutonium that is used in almost all US nuclear weapons. When depleted uranium “target rods” are inserted into military production reactors (notably at Savannah River) some U-238 atoms in the DU are converted into Pu-239 (plutonium-239) atoms and are subsequently separated out for use as a nuclear explosive. Virtually all of the plutonium in all US nuclear warheads was produced directly from depleted uranium.

Most people also do not realize that the military has, from the very first H-bombs, used depleted uranium directly in the construction of the metallic components of the warheads themselves, AND that this depleted uranium is responsible for at least 50 % of the explosive power of each H-bomb, as well as almost all of the radioactive fallout from the H-bombs. This is because the plutonium trigger (which was also made from depleted uranium) heats the fusion materials (deuterium and tritium) to several million degrees celsius so that they can undergo nuclear fusion, which in turn produces a huge burst of enormously energetic fusion neutrons (4 or 5 times more energetic than the neutrons produced by nuclear fission).

But neutrons are highly penetrating and therefore do not create as powerful an explosion as they might unless they are intercepted by something which can absorb them and magnify t he energy by a factor of 2 or more in a non-penetrating form — and that’s what the depleted uranium in the H-bomb is there for. When these highly energetic fusion neutrons hit the DU (mainly U-238) atoms, those “non-fissile” atoms are in fact fissioned (something that almost never happens in nuclear fission reactors!) producing an enormously enhanced burst of energy (double or more than double) and a plethora of highly radioactive “fission products” which contribute most of the radioactive fallout of the H-bomb.

That’s why these bombs are called “fission-fusion-fission” bombs. The first fission is plutonium. Then there’s the fusion of the deuterium and tritium. Then the second fission, which is the depleted uranium.

If you remove the depleted uranium materials from the H-bomb, you get a “neutron bomb” — one that has much less blast, much less radioactive fallout, and an enormous spewing forth of highly penetrating neutrons which do not generally destroy buildings but which are absolutely deadly to living things.

And to think that a large percentage of that DU is good old Canadian (Saskatchewan) uranium! Yikes.

The Canadian connections with DU munitions are even closer than just providing the raw material, as the following little excerpt indicates….

From: Uranium Medical Research Centre (UMRC)

12/26/2005 Uranium Biological Effects Study – Port Hope

UMRC is pleased on its official participation in the Port Hope Biological Studies Project, Port Hope Ontario. Port Hope is the home of two nuclear industry facilities: Zircatec Precision Industries and Cameco Nuclear Fuels Division. Cameco acquired the Port Hope uranium refinery, conversion and metals processing facility from the original Canadian Crown Corporation, Eldarado Nuclear. Eldarado Nuclear participated in the Manhattan Project and now as Cameco, supplies UF6 to the US uranium enrichment program and UO2 to Zircatec and other fuel rod manufacturers.

Currently Zircatec and Cameco process commercial natural uranium, depleted uranium, and enriched uranium stocks. As Eldoradeo, the refinery supplied Canadian and US Defense Departments with uranium and depleted uranium metals and extruded rods for kinetic energy penetrator research. Retired employees confirm that DU-KEP extruded rods were manufactured in Port Hope in the 1960’s onwards. The Cameco facility hosts one of the largest uranium metal processing capacities in the industry.

Dr. Asaf Durakovic, UMRC’s Director of Research has been appointed to the Medical Advisory Committee, Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee. Tedd Weyman, UMRC’s Deputy Director is leading the field investigations at Port Hope.

So, Premier Calvert and Minister Cline, how will you respond to this?

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