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Health Phys. 2003 Apr;84(4):538-44.

Modeling of the dispersion of depleted uranium aerosol.

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Institute of Nuclear Technology-Radiation Protection, N.C.S.R. Demokritos, 15310 Ag. Paraskevi, Attiki, Greece.


Depleted uranium is a low-cost radioactive material that, in addition to other applications, is used by the military in kinetic energy weapons against armored vehicles. During the Gulf and Balkan conflicts concern has been raised about the potential health hazards arising from the toxic and radioactive material released. The aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel. Attempts to estimate the extent and magnitude of the dispersion were until now performed by complex modeling tools employing unclear assumptions and input parameters of high uncertainty. An analytical puff model accommodating diffusion with simultaneous deposition is developed, which can provide a reasonable estimation of the dispersion of the released depleted uranium aerosol. Furthermore, the period of the exposure for a given point downwind from the release can be estimated (as opposed to when using a plume model). The main result is that the depleted uranium mass is deposited very close to the release point. The deposition flux at a couple of kilometers from the release point is more than one order of magnitude lower than the one a few meters near the release point. The effects due to uncertainties in the key input variables are addressed. The most influential parameters are found to be atmospheric stability, height of release, and wind speed, whereas aerosol size distribution is less significant. The output from the analytical model developed was tested against the numerical model RPM-AERO. Results display satisfactory agreement between the two models.

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