Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Introduction | News | Information | Resources | Affiliate | Action | Links | Contact

Stanstead Air Crash Involved DU

The Korean Air Boeing 747 which crashed near Stansted Airport just before Christmas was later revealed to have been carrying depleted uranium.
DU is used in aircraft as counter-weights for tail rudder controls because the of high density which gives a heavy weight in only a small size. Several hundred kilograms of DU were used in 747 Jumbo Jets until the 1980s when it was replaced with tungsten.
A Boeing spokesperson commented in the Guardian newspaper that it would not have presented any risk to the public or to emergency workers, "The company began using DU in the early 1960s. Boeing replaced it with tungsten in the early 1980s, on grounds of cost and availability. The Korean 747 was delivered to the airline in June 1980. We think it contained about 300 kg of DU. But it would need to have been exposed to a fire of 800 degrees Celsius for more than four hours before it emitted uranium oxide. And even then, if it was breathed in it would be only 40% of the amount deemed harmful."

This is a startling remark, as in effect, for the first time, officials are admitting that DU is dangerous in weapons, when it does indeed burn above these temperatures.

Since this time, it has been revealed by the Department of Environment and Transport that only about half of the DU used in the jet has been recovered by contractors working to clear the site for investigators. It is therefore possible that some of the uranium was vaporised in the intense

fire when the aircraft crashed and this could raise worrying concerns about health effects. In a similar plane disaster in 1992, an El Al Boeing 747 crashed in suburbs of Amsterdam and burst into flames. Poisoning from the DU has been partly blamed for a number of illnesses which have been suffered by those living near the crash site (see below).

Malcolm Hooper, professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry at the University of Sunderland told BBC News Online: "If no precautions were taken at the crash scene, people will have been exposed to hazards that could prove fatal."
The Korean Air jet crashed in flames and Professor Hooper said: "Those who were handling the wreckage should have been advised of the risk. They should have been taking all the precautions they didn't take in the Amsterdam crash.
"I can't see any way you could have a significant fire in a crash like this without producing the conditions that would allow a potentially hazardous release of DU."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

From CADU News 3: Winter 1999/2000

Read more articles about Civilian Uses and Consequences

Introduction | News | Information | Resources | Affiliate | Action | Links | Contact

Page last updated: January 28, 2003