By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Perez
Utah Air National Guard
Members of the 151st Civil Engineering Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight were tasked with inspecting and detonating contaminated and compromised depleted uranium rounds found at the Tooele Army Depot on June 23, 2022.
With the significance of the potential environmental threat, EOD needed to quickly and safely separate the projectile from the explosive component of the ammunition.
“My job is to render things serviceable or unserviceable,” said Mike Belmares, chief of surveillance for Tooele Army Depot. “Once I got the call and inspected a container of [30 millimeters of depleted uranium] rounds I knew this was going to require EOD support.”
Depleted uranium is used for tank armor, armor-piercing bullets, and as weights to help balance aircrafts. Depleted uranium is both a toxic chemical and radiation health hazard when inside the body, according to the U.S. Department of Public Health.
Tooele Army Depot has a production team that safely deals with old and expired ammunition. The container housing the rounds was accidentally punctured by a piece of equipment and the top was not properly secured. This caused 10 percent of the DU rounds to become compromised.
Several agencies from the Tooele Army Depot and the 151st CES, EOD flight were involved in the planning and execution to dispose of the explosives and separate the DU projectile.
“Handling DU rounds is especially dangerous, so we take extra precautions and follow our procedures 100 percent,” said Master Sgt. Derin Creek, 151st CES, EOD technician. “We have to ensure not only the safety of everyone in the area and my team, but to also protect the environment and eliminate radioactive contamination.”
Over the course of a full day EOD removed and inspected more than 500 rounds containing depleted uranium. They were successful in separating all of the explosives from the projectiles. Now, the Tooele Army Depot will be able to dispose of the depleted uranium properly.
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