Targets with depleted uranium questioned

March 23, 2004
Las Vegas SUN

The Air Force will hold the first of three public meetings tonight to accept comments on what to do with 182 tanks on the Nevada Test and Training Range that were used as targets by A-10 Thunderbolt IIs firing depleted uranium ammunition.

About 7,900 radioactive uranium rounds are fired at the 2.9 million-acre range every year, and those rounds are gathered and disposed of at low-level waste facilities, Nellis officials said.

The tanks that the Thunderbolts fire on remain on the range, and the Air Force is drafting an environmental assessment for their proposed removal.

It has not yet been decided what will be done with the tanks, but options include leaving them on the range, fitting them with monitoring equipment and leaving them, or burying them, Air Warfare Center spokesman Mike Estrada said.

At current usage rates the tanks on the range should last as targets for the next 20 years, about the life span of the A-10. The A-10, an aircraft used for close air support and tank-busting, could be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in about 20 years, Estrada said.

The Joint Strike Fighter will likely not use depleted uranium ammunition, Estrada said.