[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 134 (Tuesday, July 14, 1998)]
[Pages 37858-37859]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-18674]



Department of the Army

Proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the M1 
Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System

AGENCY: U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Ground Combat & Support 
Systems, Warren, MI.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) of 1969 and Army Regulation (AR) 200-2, the proposed FONSI for 
the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System is being published 
for comment.
    The U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Ground Combat & Support 
Systems (PEO-GCSS) has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment for 
the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) Heavy Armor System. The current 
use of the depleted uranium (DU) armor package on the Abrams MBT has 
been re-evaluated to determine whether the environmental impacts of its 
continued use remain insignificant, taking into consideration the 
current use of the tank and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) 
reduction in allowable radiation exposure from 500 mrem/year to 100 
mrem/year for tank and maintenance crews (individual members of the 
    As in already-fielded weapon system, M1 MBTs have been in 
production and in the field since the early 1980s. During that time, 
many technical, environmental and health assessments have been 
completed. These documents have addressed and minimized environmental 
impacts. As part of the continuing analysis effort, this EA focuses 
specifically on the assembly, use, repair and disposal of the heavy 
armor package.
DATES: Comments must be received not later than August 28, 1998.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions concerning this proposed 
action should be submitted within 45 days of the date of this 
publication and directed to Mr. Dennis Sweers, Abrams Program 
Management Office, Program Executive Office, Ground Combat and Support 
Systems, ATTN: SFAE-GCSS-W-AB-SM, Warren, MI 48397-5000. Telephone 
number: (810) 574-7895, E-mail address: [email protected]


1. Purpose and Need for Proposed Action

    The Abrams Tank System Program (Abrams), administered by the 
Project Manager, Abrams Tank System (PM Abrams) with support from the 
U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), has been using 
Depleted Uranium (DU) armor on the Abrams Tank since 1988. In 1996, a 
design change to the armor package was made by the Army and cut-in to 
production by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) via Change Request 
XMPP-2083 in Oct 96 and effective with Job #1 M1A2 Phase II AUT. The 
purpose of this revision to the Environmental Assessment (EA) is to 
assess the environmental impact of the change from the original DU 
armor design to this modified design. Additionally, although unrelated 
to this armor design change, since the last EA, the NRC's maximum 
radiation dose limits for individual members of the public has been 
change from 500 mrem per year to 100 mrem per year. This revision 
assesses the new design against these new dose limits.
    B. The findings of the draft EA of the M1 Abrams MBT Heavy Army 
System support this FONSI. The assessment was conducted in keeping with 
the Army's environmental stewardship policy, to ensure that any 
potential environmental impacts are fully mitigated. The EA supports 
all related M1 Abrams MBT programs reviewed by the Defense Acquisition 

2. General Description of Action

    A. Under the proposed action, the use of the current depleted 
uranium (DU) armor package on the Abrams tank would be evaluated to 
determine whether the environmental impacts of its continued use remain 
insignificant, taking into consideration the current use of the tank, 
the armor package design change instituted in 1996 and changes in the 
NRC's radiation dose limits for individual members of the public. If it 
is determined that the environmental impacts of use of the DU armor 
package remain insignificant, PM Abrams will continue to produce the 
armor package through 2005.
    B. The draft Heavy Armor System EA evaluates the following: tank 
assembly activities at Lima Army Tank Plant (LATP); field operations 
including crew maintenance, field support maintenance and depot 
maintenance; and demilitarization. All DU issues which are not the 
direct responsibility of PM Abrams are not covered in the EA, but have 
been covered in previous assessments.
    C. In summary, the DU is fabricated into armor packages by a 
contractor to the Department of Energy. The contractor ships the 
assembled armor packages to LATP for installation in the

[[Page 37859]]

tanks. At LATP, the armor packages remain in the transportation 
containers until they are ready to be inserted into the tank. Following 
installation of the armor package and other tank components, the 
completed tanks are transported to military units as required for field 
use. Field use consists primarily of training exercises and varying 
levels of maintenance performed either by the tank operating crew or a 
field maintenance crew. Some maintenance, including major repairs, is 
conducted at maintenance depots by dedicated crews. At some point in 
the future, the tanks will be removed from service, demilitarized, and 
    D. The impacts of the use of DU armor are central to the question 
of whether the impacts of continued use of the M1 Abrams MBT remains 
insignificant. The sue of DU armor is the primary feature that 
distinguishes the Abrams tank from numerous other commonly accepted 
equipment employed by the military and industry. Conventionally-armored 
military vehicles and heavy equipment, similar to tanks, are commonly 
operated by the Army and industry in a manner that is considered by the 
public to be acceptable and with insignificant impact on the human 
environment. Consequently, in conformance with the procedural 
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) this 
Environmental Assessment (EA) has focused strictly on the use of DU 

3. Anticipated Environmental Effects

    A. The MI Abrams MBT Heavy Armor System will be assembled, 
transported, maintained, and disposed of in accordance with applicable 
environmental protection regulations. The PM Abrams has performed an 
in-depth study of exposure scenarios for affected personnel and has 
found that, in all instances, the maximum potential exposure to 
radiation from the Heavy Armor System will fall well under the 100 
mrem/year NRC limit.
    B. The PM Abrams has determined that the potential for adverse 
environmental impacts of the use and disposal of the Heavy Armor 
package occur only if the outer armor integrity has been compromised or 
if a large number of rounds are fired into the tank. In this instance, 
however, decontamination measures can be limited to a 76-meter area 
downwind of the impact site (for a worst-case scenario). The 
concentration of the aerosol in the passing cloud does not exceed the 
guidelines for the general population as set forth in 10 CFR Part 20.
    C. The PM Abrams will continue to assess alternative procedures and 
materials for opportunities to replace the DU used for the Heavy Armor 
System and to proactively implement environmental improvements to the 
program in other areas.

4. Facts and Conclusions

    A. Operations at LATP are conducted in accordance with their 
Radiation Protection Plan and personnel exposures are controlled within 
the regulatory limits. Potential hazards have been identified and 
evaluated and appropriate preventive measures have been taken. Efforts 
have been made to reduce radiation exposures below the limits and to 
minimize the number of personnel subjected to radiation exposure.
    B. Transportation of completed tanks from LATP to field 
organizations for use is conducted in compliance with Department of 
Transportation requirements for the transportation of articles 
containing depleted uranium. Compliance with Department of 
Transportation requirements assures appropriate protection of the 
involved personnel and members of the general public from the potential 
radiation and other hazards associated with transportation.
    C. Storage and Parking of tanks at field installations has been 
evaluated and it has been determined that there is no reasonable 
potential for exposure of personnel or the general public to radiation 
exposures exceeding the limits allowed for members of the general 
    D. Fields use of the Abrams Tank with Heavy Armor has been 
evaluated and it has been determined that appropriate controls exist in 
the form of vehicle design, vehicle use, and vehicle maintenance to 
assure that radiation exposure to involved personnel and the general 
public is maintained within the required regulatory limits and that 
efforts have been made to reduce radiation exposures below the limits.
    E. The environmental effects of accidents involving the release of 
DU have been evaluated and appropriate actions have been identified to 
assure mitigation and minimize the potential for environmental damage.
    F. Means have been identified and agreements have been made that 
assure that the DU is properly managed and controlled during and 
following demilitarization.
    G. Means have been identified and agreements have been made that 
assure that all DU wastes generated by the Abrams Heavy Armor System 
are properly managed and disposed.

5. Determination

    Based on the analyses of the draft EA, the use of DU armor from its 
receipt by the Abrams program through disposition of the material 
following future demilitarization of the Abrams tanks, including 
reasonably foreseeable accidents, do not constitute a major Federal 
action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment 
within the meaning of the NEPA. Therefore, an Environmental Impact 
Statement for the proposed action is not required.
Gregory D. Showalter,
Army Federal Register Liaison Officer.
[FR Doc. 98-18674 Filed 7-13-98; 8:45 am]