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Army’s depleted uranium application now before NRC

John Hayes, of the U.S. Nuclear Regulartory Commission, talks to the audience at Hilo High School during the commission's presentation. Photography by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii 24/7

John Hayes, of the U.S. Nuclear Regulartory Commission, talks to the audience at Hilo High School during the commission's presentation. Photography by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii 24/7

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor

Informational material from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Informational material from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission began its review of the U.S. Army’s application to possess depleted uranium this week on the Big Island.

The procedure to grant a license  – and establishing any conditions to that license – is expected to last into next year.

The application covers nine sites across the country, including Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island and Schofield Barracks on Oahu.

“We’re basically in the beginning stages here,” said Dave McIntyre, NRC Public Affairs Office. “We’re here to review the process and the conditions that could be put on the permit.”

Although the application includes mainland sites, McIntyre said Hawaii was a logical place to start.

“We understand there is a long-standing relationship with the military and we understand there is some mistrust there,” he said.

More than 700 spotting rounds for the 1960s Davy Crockett weapons system were shipped to Hawaii, according the U.S. Army records. They since have been confirmed at Schofield in 2005 and at PTA in 2007.

Presenters from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Hilo High School Thursday (Aug 27).

Presenters from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Hilo High School with a radiation detector Thursday (Aug 27).

The Army now needs a possession permit from the NRC, an independent federal regulatory board that ensures the use of radioactive material is done safely.

The series of meeting this week included Oahu, Kona and Hilo. The final meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 at Hilo High School.

Public comments will be accepted until Oct. 13; members of the public also can make a hearing request as outlined in the National Federal Register.

More than three dozen residents attended Wednesday’s informational meeting at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Among the concerns

* The Army’s continued dropping of 2,000-pound test bombs in the area, despite the county council passing a nonbinding resolution in 2008 requesting the military halt live-fire training.

* Sen. Josh Green, who also is an emergency room physician, said he is alarmed about the ‘cancer clusters’ in Kona.

* Residents called for the NRC to research whether depleted uranium may contribute to cancer, birth defects, deformations and other illness.

* Highlights of testimony from Kona resident Shannon Rudolph

I was across the highway from Pohakuloa in May 2007, with other residents watching radiation monitors for an hour and a half staying at, or below normal background  radiation levels of 5 to 20 counts per minute.

A visible “dust devil” blew up off the training range and traveled directly over the monitors and all of us. As the dust blew over us, the radiation monitors spiked 4 times, up to 75 cpm. We were horrified.

Our State Dept. of Health was contacted and they came up the mountain to measure. Their protocol for measuring radiation was to practically hold their old monitor out the window of their car for a few moments and declare safe levels.

Cabrera Services was hired to monitor, and flew over a very small portion of Pohakuloa for a couple of days in a helicopter, which residents know, wasn’t nearly enough.

Residents have gotten no answers they feel are reliable regarding questions we have about DU on our mountain, we’ve mostly gotten stalling, misinformation, and disrespect.

We need some straight answers to our questions and residents are counting on the NCR to protect us as one of our last lines of defense against the military who have a historically poor record of telling the truth.

Many residents think many more radiation weapons systems have been used beyond the Davy Crockett, tail fin spotter rounds.

I ask that in addition to absolutely foolproof, verifiable, long term, air, soil, and water monitoring, preferably by independent professionals, for all Hawaii bases that are contaminated, I plead with you to do some independent testing of sick, life long, Hawaii residents living downwind, especially in South Kona, which is at the business end of the Pohakuloa wind tunnel, in addition to wildlife near perimeters.

It is well past time that we have some straight answers from someone.

Let’s cut to the chase, IF depleted uranium is discovered in any life long resident or animal, it means the radiation is migrating off of the property.

I ask that you make the Army follow its own regulation AR 700-48 according to regulation author, Dr. Doug Rokke; to shut down these Hawaii training areas now, clean up every speck of DU, and take care of and compensate well, any soldier or resident they may have harmed.

Personally, I think if widespread contamination is discovered, the army should build us a new hospital or pay to relocate those who care to leave. If you have to pave over Pohakuloa to stop the dust, do it. We’ll have to worry about the groundwater later.

I dearly hope you will take all of our comments seriously, hold the military’s feet to the fire on the DU issue, and babysit their every move as your sacred duty to us all.

— Find out more:

Army application material: www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/w…, click on ADAMS Web Search, then enter docket number 04009083 in the search box.

Written comments may be sent to: John Hayes, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Two White Flint North, Mail Stop T8F5, 11545 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852-2738. Or send an e-mail to:  john.hayes@nrc.gov

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