You do realize that Depleted Uranium is commercially availible, right? Actually, guesing by the first post, probably not...
DU bulk storage is rather expensive, so it's relatively cheap to buy for various purposes. It's used in everything from oil drills to gyroscopes to
sailboat keels to trim weights on commercial aircraft; Boeing 747s used up to 1,500kg of DU in their construction.
So it's safe to assume that Iran already has plenty of DU ammunition for its 125mm tank rifles and other applications, likely supplied by Russia. If
Iran and the US army got in a fight tomarow, both sides would be firing DU bullets. And US Tanks would also be wearing DU armor, which is no small
So what about the radiation? DU is an alpha emitter, which means its spitting out ionized helium atoms (thats what alpha particles are). These
particles don't have much penetrating power, a few cm of air offers sufficient insulation and if you sat on a DU plate the radiation from it
wouldn't penetrate the outer dead layers of your skin.
For this reason DU gets used for reactor shielding: It's dense enough to stop nearly all forms of radiation, and the alpha radiation it gives off is
very simple to shield against.
Where DU gets dangerous is after it strikes something at high speed, which causes spontaneous combustion: you get lots of uranium oxide dust as the
stuff burns in the air. And because this dust *can* be ingested, your at much greater risk. Alpha particles emmited inside your body are impacting
living tissue, which isn't too healthy (see Radon for a similar example), and you've got the additional factor of heavy metal poisening.
But as long as you don't breathe powdered DU, or have it fired at you out of a gun, there's not too much to worry about.
P.S. You can read this post to say I don't approve of DU based munitions, I'd be perfectly happy to see those go away (Tungsten is a decent
replacement for those few situations where you really need KE rounds). However for most other applications, including DU-based armor plating, there's
not too much call for concern.
DU on Wikipedia
[edit on 31-8-2006 by RedMatt]