Sunday, January 05, 2003

Tim Blair points out once again that depleted uranium is (from the point of view of its radiological properties) completely harmless. (It is, however, poisonous in the same way lead is). It is worth observing that there are approximately 1.5 tonnes of depleted uranium in the wings and tail of every Boeing 747. The weight is necessary to ensure that the wings are balanced properly, and uranium is used because it is the densest naturally occurring material. That is, the 1.5 tonnes of weight can fit in a very small space if you use uranium. Thare are various mentions of this on the web, for instance, here.

You can also find various conspiracy theories concerning this use of uranium, many to do with the El Al crash in Amsterdam in 1992. (Given that an Israeli jet managed to crash into a housing block full of muslim immigrants, conspiracy theories were inevitable for that one).

In a university physics department in which I once worked, we had a little demonstration of the weights of different materials for visitors on open days. They could pick up a number of objects the same size and see how much heavier some were than others. One thing we had was a piece of depleted uranium (that somebody had somehow obtained from someone in the aviation industry and that had supposedly come from a decommissioned airliner) which we and large numbers of members of the public all picked up from time to time. Nobody that I know of has suffered any ill effects. (Given how little radiation - and what kind of radiation - the stuff gives off, the claims of the conspiracy theorists are just ludicrous. They should all go and get an education).

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