Rumors Of Nuclear Weapon Detonations on Hawaii Island Unanswered
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii – A Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting on depleted uranium at numerous U.S. Army sites, including Schofield Barracks and the Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii, set off renewed questions of concern and protest from island activists.
The Army is applying to add more sites to its license to possess depleted uranium.
DU “spotting rounds” were used with Davy Crockett weapons systems in the 1960s to assist with targeting accuracy. Decades later, the public learned about the training with depleted uranium, and concerns grew over the effects on health and the environment. Meanwhile, the NRC started the process to allow the Army to possess the DU, after the fact. A long series of hearings and teleconference calls culminated in a decision to issue a license allowing the U.S. Army to possess DU at the two sites in Hawaii.
Schofield and Pohakuloa are part of the original license. The Army seeks to include Fort Benning and Fort Gordon (GA), Fort Campbell and Fort Knox (KY), Fort Carson (CO), Fort Hood (TX), Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Yakima Training Center (WA), Fort Bragg (NC), Fort Polk (LA), Fort Sill (OK), Fort Jackson (SC), Fort Hunter Liggett (CA) and Fort Riley (KS).
Jim Albertini, president of the Hawaii Island-based Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action, listened in on the teleconference early Tuesday. “I submitted 8 points including questions to be addressed at the meeting today (see below) and none were addressed,” Albertini wrote afterwards. “Today’s meeting was originally set by the NRC for 3 AM Hawaii time. It was later changed to 5AM when I complained how inconsiderate that was for encouraging Hawaii participation in the meeting. Bureaucrats often lose sight of who they are suppose to be serving.”
Here are the 8 questions posed by Albertini, distributed in a media release before the meeting:
Dear NRC and U.S. Army:
Regarding Davy Crockett “King of the Wild Frontier” DU License to possess (Nuclear waste dump License) in Hawaii, at least 11 other states and 3 foreign countries (South Korea, Germany, and Japan). I must note that whatever environmental process and laws and NRC provisions apply within the U.S. should also be applied to U.S. Bases in the three foreign countries where the U.S. admits using Davy Crockett DU spotting rounds. The people in those countries have a right to know and have equal justice applied.
Below are questions that need answers.
1. I have been informed by an investigative source that up to six Davy Crockett nuclear weapons were actually detonated at Pohakuloa in the late 1950s-early 1960s, not simply up to 2000 Davy Crockett DU spotting rounds used in training there.
Please attempt to confirm or deny this report by the March 24, 2015 meeting date and investigate if any U.S. nuclear explosions took place at military ranges other than the Nevada, Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Marshall Islands nuclear testing grounds, and Johnston Island. It took 43 years to confirm that DU spotting rounds were used at Pohakuloa. I hope it will not take another 43 to confirm or accurately deny that nuclear weapons were detonated at PTA in the 1950s or early 60s.
Wikipedia says the Davy Crockett M-388 round used a version of the W54 warhead, a very small sub-kiloton fission device. The Davy Crockett nuclear warhead (Mk-54) which was also basically the same warhead with a variable yield for the Special Atomic Demolition device and the AIM -26 Falcon air-to-air missile. The yield range is 10-20 ton yield for the Davy Crockett, to 1 kiloton for the special atomic demolition munition, to 250 ton yield for the AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missile. Have any of these relatively low yield nuclear weapons been detonated at Pohakuloa or any other sites besides the Nevada Test Site. I have seen a report that up to six Davy Crockett nuclear detonations have taken place at Pohakuloa.
Mk-54 (Davy Crockett) — 10 or 20 ton yield, Davy Crockett Gun warhead
Mk-54 (SADM) — variable yield 10 ton to 1 kiloton, Special Atomic Demolition Munition device
W-54 — 250 ton yield, warhead for AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missile
2. For years Army officials repeatedly denied that DU was ever used in Hawaii. They lied. Then they were caught with their pants down by Peace activists discovering in court documents that DU had been used on Oahu at Schofield Barracks but the Army was keeping it quiet. Peace activist on Hawaii island stepped up radiation monitoring at Mauna Kea State Park near the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) and recorded initial radiation spikes several times background readings on May 29, 2007 with winds coming from the south off the base toward the park. Three months later the Army admitted DU was used at Pohakuloa at some ranges approximately 1 mile south of Mauna Kea State park Peace activists suspect DU was also used at the Army’s Makua bombing range on Oahu, the now closed military bombing range on the island of Kaho’olawe, Ka’ula bombing range near Ni’ihau, and perhaps other Hawaii sites.
On July, 2, 2008, the Hawaii County Council by a vote of 8-1 passed Resolution 639-08 calling for a halt to all live-fire at PTA due to the prtesence of Depleted Uranium radiation. The resolution called for clean up of the DU present at PTA and 7 other actions, none of which have been done by the Army. This has been brought to the attention of the Army and NRC. Why hasn’t action been taken as called for by the Hawaii County Council?
3. Citizens want comprehensive, independent, testing and monitoring to determine the full extent of radiation contamination at PTA. To date, the community has no confidence in the Army, NRC, etc. that such testing and monitoring will be done. It’s now more than 50 years since DU was used in Hawaii and we still have nothing to assure the confidence of the community. When will this pattern of denial, passing the buck, and delays change? Or will it ever change? To date the response of the Army, State and federal officials has been shameful.
4. With the new and improved Saddle Road passing through Pohakuloa, traffic has increased considerably. So too the risk of radiation being spread by vehicles, high winds in the area, and flash flooding. If nothing else, what does the NRC have to say about PTA, with all its known military toxins being located adjacent to a Girl Scout’s Camp?
5. How many live rounds are fired annually at PTA. A Stryker EIS done more than a decade ago said 14.8 million. What is the current figure and name all the weapon systems used?
6. The Army has said that DU was prohibited in training as of 1996. No word on if and when DU was prohibited in training by the other military branches. If DU was not prohibited from being used in training was it used at PTA until 1996 in other weapons besides Davy Crockett? NRC –take off your Davy Crockett blinders. Today DU is used in a wide variety of weapons by all branches of the military: 20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 105mm, 120mm, etc.. Have any of these weapons been used at PTA, Schofield Barracks, and all the other sites where Davy Crockett DU spotting rounds were used? Or will we have to wait another 40 plus years for these questions to be addressed?
7. The Hawaiian Island of Kaho’olawe (28,000 acres) was used as a bombing and live-fire target for more than 50 years. A citizens movement lead by Native Hawaiians stopped the bombing. $450 million was spent to clean up the military mess. It was suppose to clean the entire surface of UXO (Unexploded ordinance) and 2/3 of the island to a depth of 4 feet so vegetation could be replanted. The $450 million is gone and not even the entire surface has been cleared of UXO. UXO is buried all over the island and in the waters surrounding the island. It’s still a mess and as far as I know has never been tested for the presence of DU. PTA, at 133,000-acres is nearly 5 times as large as Kaho’olawe. It has been used as a target for more than 70 years and has confirmed radiation contamination. What will be the cost of clean up at PTA? Do the math. And who is going to pay for it? Not far from PTA is the Waikoloa 120,000-acre live-fire area that was used just for 2 years of training during WWII. Today the estimated clean up cost of that site alone is over $700 million. A measly $5-10million a year is presently being appropriated for clean up. At that rate, at today’s prices, it would take 70-140 years for clean up. Again, easy to make a mess. Much harder to clean it up. Always plenty of money for weapons and war. NEVER enough money for clean up.
8. Finally, PTA is Hawaiian Kingdom government and crown occupied lands. Hawaii as an independent nation was illegally overthrown by greedy U.S. businessmen with the direct involvement of the U.S. Marines. Hawaii has been under U.S. military occupation ever since. Pohakuloa is translated to mean: The Land of the Night of long prayer. Pohakuloa is known as the sacred heavenly realm of unity between the three great mountains –Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai. To bomb Pohakuloa and contaminate it with radiation is considered desecration and sacrilegious to Hawaii’s native people, the Kanaka Maoli, and those of us who believe we need to respect and honor native people’s spiritual beliefs and sacred sites. It’s time for the U.S. to stop being the ugly American. Pohakuloa is a good place to begin. Stop the bombing and all live-fire at PTA. Clean up the mess and end U.S. occupation.
Mahalo.Jim Albertini, president of Malu-Aina
Cory Harden with the Sierra Club’s Moku Loa Group on Hawaii Island also submitted questions to the NRC:
Isn’t it time for the NRC to take over handling the DU?
The Army didn’t know, or didn’t tell, that it had DU till after citizens announced the discovery. In the ten years since that , the Army has been addressing DU hazards at a snail’s pace, while raising numerous questions and concerns from citizens and NRC.
“…the NRC is quite concerned with the Army’s progress in satisfying license conditions” and the length of time the Army is taking to “add the remaining 15 [DU] sites to its license”. NRC expresses concern for “public health and safety and protection of the environment”. NRC says they are using “license conditions, as opposed to issuing orders to the Army” but that NRC needs “resolution on licensing issues in timely manner.” [letter from NRC to Army, 2-10-15, ML150112A427]
It’s been a year since NRC “identified the technical issues”, but the Army is still doing air sampling incorrectly. [letter from NRC to Army, 2-10-15, ML14353A412]
2. Has the Army curtailed any activities while working on NRC requirements?
What is the Army doing to prevent airborne DU dispersal while air sampling (see above) is still inadequate?
Have high explosives been fired in identified DU areas, in Hawai’i or elsewhere, since the original DU discovery? NRC said so far the Army has “provided insufficient information” about whether “DU on the ranges is insufficient to become airborne and cause an exposure hazard” during firing of high explosives. [“Additional Guidance”, 2-27-15, ML 15061A77]
3. There is evidence that 2,000 spotting rounds were used at Pohakuloa. The Army only found a few fragments. Where are the rest?
There are three lines of evidence for over 2,000 spotting rounds being fired at Pohakuloa.
a – Manuals
“U.S. Army Colonel Killian…said the types of exercises conducted at PTA (Pohakuloa Training Area) would require the firing of at least 2,050…spotting rounds.” [Depleted Uranium at Pohakuloa, West Hawai’i Today, 2-4-09]
“Killian if you go through the training manuals of the era…it would require more than 714 rounds over an 8 year period of time to qualify the requisite amount of crews…
Councilmember Hoffmann Is there any possible support for a figure of 2,000 spotting rounds at PTA?
Killian If you, if you do the math, if you extrapolate the math with the, the contemporary training manuals I think you’d come up with number of 2,050.”
[from my transcript of the official DVD of Hawai’i County Council Public Works & Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting, 2-3-09]
b – Pistons
“An environmental consultant [Peter Strauss, hired by Sierra Club] estimated there may be as many as 2,000 depleted uranium rounds at Pohakuloa Training Area… The consultant’s analysis was based on an Army report estimating that between 120 and 400 firing pistons are scattered around impact ranges at PTA…Each piston would have fired up to five of the DU rounds, for a total of between 600 and 2,000 rounds fired, Strauss said.” [Sierra Club consultant disputes Army’s DU tally, Hawai’i Tribune-Herald, 8-26-08]
c – Archive Search Report
“Total rounds verified shipped from Oahu from Lake City Ordnance Plant were 714 rounds… It is highly probable that additional stocks of the Cartridge, 20 mm Spotting M101 were order [sic] from one of the Ordnance Depots (Letterkenny or Pueblo) during the six active years of the Davy Crockett Weapon System in Hawaii.” [Archive Search Report On the Use of Cartridge, 20mm Spotting M101 for Davy Crockett Light Weapon M28, Schofield Barracks and Associated Training Areas, Islands of Oahu and Hawai’i, Army Corps of Engineers, May 2007, p. 41]
4. How is new data about water depth being factored into risk assessment for Pohakuloa?
In 2010 the Army said “Currently, there is no information to show that either groundwater or surface water near the site may have been affected by historical activities at the PTA. Additionally the size of the DU fragments and the depth of ground water is sufficiently deep so as to preclude migration; therefore, these media are excluded from further evaluation in the BHHRA…. Groundwater monitoring and production wells that have been drilled closest to the PTA properties suggest that freshwaters…are at least 300 m below ground surface…” [Final Pohakuloa Training Area Baseline Human Health Risk Assessment for Residual Depleted Uranium, Cabrera Services, June 2010]
NRC cites “the depth to the water table” as one of its “parameters of interest” [“Additional Guidance”, 2-27-15, ML 15061A77]
“Don Thomas [University of Hawai’i scientist in charge of the first water drilling project in the area] said the well drilled at about the 6,400-foot-elevation at the Pohakuloa Training Area, in the vicinity of Mauna Kea State Park, found water more than a mile above sea level… In one case, perched water [was found at] 500 feet in depth …” [http://bigislandnow.com/2014/02/13/water-in-saddle-higher-more-plentiful-than-expected/]
This first project found water “about 500 feet below the surface”.
[“Higher Waters”, Hawai’i Tribune-Herald, 2-18-14]
The Army is funding the second drilling project, the Humuʻula Saddle Hydrologic Study Project, to seek water to supply Pohakuloa. [“Large fresh water supply discovered by UH researchers on Hawaiʻi Island, University of Hawai’i News, 1-23-15, http://www.hawaii.edu/news/2015/01/23/ large-fresh-water-supply-discovered-by-uh-researchers-on-hawaii-island/]Cory Harden, Sierra Club Moku Loa Group
Big Island Video News recently covered the story of the water find on the Humu’ula Saddle, using video released by the University of Hawaii.