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Depleted Uranium: Weapon of Mass Destruction

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In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.S. forces used depleted uranium as both armor piercing bullets and as tank armor for the first time. These weapons are both radioactive and toxic. Uranium Oxide particles formed during production, testing, and battlefield use pose a long term threat to human health and the environment.

Uranium weapons are effective antitank "penetrators" because they are extremely dense. A slug of uranium weighs twice as much as a piece of lead the same size. When alloyed with titanium, uranium is extremely hard. Uranium is also "pyrophoric", which means it burns upon impact.

The U.S. Military chose to develop uranium weapons not only because they are promised to be effective, but because the metal itself is very cheap. Depleted uranium is material that remains when enriched fissionable uranium- that is, capable of generating a nuclear explosion or nuclear power- is separated from natural uranium. The U.S. stockpile exceeds a billion pounds. Uranium weapons production is the nuclear bombmakers' idea of "recycling".

The Agent Orange Of the 90's

Depleted Uranium is not capable of an atomic chain reaction. It is not considered a high-level radioactive material. As a metal slab, like the armor plates in the U.S. Army's M1 Abrams tanks, it is a relatively harmless. Though constant exposure could cause problems. But especially in particulate form, it can be extremely hazardous.
When uranium weapons burn, when they corrode, and when they are machined, uranium oxide dust is created. When inhaled, small particles-those less than 5 millionths of a meter-can lodge in a human lung tissue, exposing the host to a growing dose of alpha radiation. This can cause lung cancer in people of all ages, and is particularly hazardous to children.

Uranium, like lead and other heavy metals, is a chemical poison. The ingestion of minute quantities of uranium in food or drinking water can cause irreparable damage to the kidneys. Some experts consider this is a greater risk than radiation from depleted uranium.

Uranium weapons may be the "Agent Orange of the 90's" because large numbers of people, friend and foe are being exposed to uranium oxide dust. We won't know for 20-30 years the full significance of that exposure, but by then it will be too late. Here are a few examples of that exposure:
The U.S. Military, which fired thousands of uranium shells during the Persian Gulf War, left at least 387 tons of spent uranium munitions in Kuwait and southern Iraq after the war. The U.S. Government believes, based upon weapons tests in the U.S. and general knowledge about wind patterns, that there is no health or environmental hazard, but it has not undertaken any study of battlefield areas.

After the Persian Gulf War, contaminated U.S. armored vehicles were prepared for disposal in the United States. The U.S. soldiers--at least 25-- who handled those vehicles were not warned of DU hazards or wore any protective gear.

Army weapons testers at the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana fired DU rounds at soft targets-cloth or plywood- to avoid combustion. Still, only 22,000kg of the 91,000kg fired there between 1984 and 1992 were recovered in biannual clearance operations. The Army will have to strip away several feet of soil during decontamination. This will increase soil erosion and the migration of DU.

The NRC permitted Nellis Air Force Base to receive and process up to 77,000 lbs. of DU rounds. These rounds were used in testing on the base's Range 63 using tanks as targets.
In 1980, NL Industries Uranium Weapons factory in Clonie, New York was forced to close. Uranium particles were found as far as 26 miles downwind.

In 1981, workers at Aerojet's TNS Uranium Weapons Plant in Jonesborough, Tennessee went on strike because of plant conditions that caused an epidemic of uranium poisoning.

At Nuclear Metals Inc., which manufactures uranium weapons in Concord, Massachusetts, radioactive materials have contaminated surface water, ground water, and land. Independent testing done by Citizens Research and Environmental Watch(CREW), a local grassroots organization, found DU 18 times the background level and up to 9/10ths of a mile away. Concord has the second highest level of thyroid cancer in the state, 2 1/2 times the state average. -- Military Toxics Project



Opponents Prevail Over U.S. Gene-Busting Dirty Bombs
"Depleted" Uranium Munitions Get Third Legal Black Eye in 15 Months
    By John M. LaForge
    in Z magazine, July/August 2005

Summer 2005, The Pathfinder:
Depleted Uranium Update

Spring 2005, The Pathfinder:
‘ Not Guilty’

Not Guilty Continued
Contaminated DU site Evaluated for Cleanup

Winter 2004 - 2005, The Pathfinder:
Alliant Techsystems Profits Increase with War
Alliant’s Uranium Pollution Exposed
Iraq’s Provisional Government Seeks DU Cleanup; U.S. Denies Risks

Dec 21 2004, from John La Forge:
A Losing Streak Broken: Law Prevails Over Alliant's Poison Weapons

Dec 20 2004, from Nukewatch:
Two Groups of Weapons Protesters Found 'Not Guilty' of Trespass
Closing Argument from the Trial

Fall 2004: The Pathfinder:
Increased Cancer Risk from Plutonium

Summer 2004: The Pathfinder:
Radioactive warfare: DU update
British Gulf War Vets’ Babies 50 Percent More Likely to Have Birth Defects

December 14 2003, from the Guardian/UK:
Army Shells Pose Cancer Risk in Iraq
by Antony Barnett

December 4 2003, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Activists want depleted-uranium munitions labeled
by Larry Johnson

Winter 2003-04, from the Nukewatch Pathfinder:
Uranium Weapons Poisoning Iraq
by John LaForge

November 23 2003:
DU Munitions Transport Secrecy - An Action Plan

November 22 2003, from the Japan Times:
Ex-military doctor decries use of depleted uranium weapons
by Nao Shimoyachi

October 2003, from the Nukewatch Fact Sheet:

October 23 2003, from the World Uranium Weapons Conference:
The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War

October 22 2003, from ThePulse:
Alliant 28 found not guilty by jury of citizens
by Steve Clemens

October 6 2003, from the Traprock Peace Center:
FOIA Document shows Navy has been aware of problems associated with DU since at least 14 May 1984

September 21 2003, from the London Telegraph:
Army's new tank gun will end use of controversial uranium-tipped shells
by Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent

September 9 2003, from Bring Them Home Now:
Why Weapons Containing Depleted Uranium Are Illegal
by Karen Parker, J.D.

August 4 2003, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
War’s Unintended Effects:
Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons Lingers As Health Concern

by Larry Johnson, Foreign Desk Editor

June 27, 2003, from In These Times:
Weapons of Mass Deception
by Frida Berrigan

June 3, 2003, from the BBC:
UK troops' depleted uranium tests 'invalid’

May 30 2003, from PANOS:
Depleted uranium: weapon of (long-term) mass destruction
by Felicity Arbuthnot in Baghdad

May 15 2003, from the Christian Science Monitor:
Less DU in this war?
by Scott Peterson

April 25 2003, from The Guardian:
Uranium hazard prompts cancer check on troops

by Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent

also April 25 2003, from The Guardian:
About Depleted Uranium
by Alok Jha

April 20 2003, from the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate:
Depleted uranium shells controversial in two wars
By Louis Porter, Staff Writer

April 17 2003, from The Guardian:
Scientists Urge Shell Clear-Up to Protect Civilians
by Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent

April 16 2003, from the Idaho Observer:
Death By Slow Burn - How America Nukes Its Own Troops
by Amy Worthington

March 10 2003, from Wired Magazine:
U.S. Stocking Uranium-Rich Bombs?
by Elliot Borin

March 2003, from Nukewatch:
DU Spiked with Plutonium

- a chart in .pdf format

Spring 2003, from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (UK):
Two Reports from CADU News

February 16 2003, from the Sunday Herald:
Gaffe exposes monitoring sham: Ministry of Defense admits officer's slip-up is ‘unhelpful’
by Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

January 2003, from the University of Belgrade,
Politics and Environmental Policy in the 21st Century:
Uranium Weapons Cover-ups - a Crime against Humankind
by Piotr Bein, Ph.D., M.A.Sc., P.Eng., and
Karen Parker, J.D., Diplome (Strasbourg)

January 31 2003, from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (UK) -
'What they publicized:
from Depleted Uranium Scare

..and what they didn't publicize:'
Some of the U.S. Government's Documentation of Harmful Effects of D.U. Weapons

January 17 2003, from the Times-Standard:
Arcata asks for ban on depleted uranium
by James Faulk

January 9 2003, from the Seattle Times:
Navy's ammo has environmentalists, others up in arms
by Ray Rivera and Craig Welch, Times staff reporters

January 7 2003, from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action:
Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons fired by U.S. Navy on Washington coast

December 20 2002, from the Christian Science Monitor:
A 'Silver Bullet's' Toxic Legacy
by Scott Peterson

November 12 2002, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Iraqi Cancers, Birth Defects Blamed on U.S. Depleted Uranium
by Larry Johnson

Fall 2002, from the Nukewatch Pathfinder:
Depleted Uranium Weapons Tied to Genetic Damage & Leukemia
by John LaForge

March 2002, from LeMonde:
Depleted Uranium in Bunker Bombs
by Robert James Parsons

January 23 2001, from NATO - updated February 13 2003:
U.S. Information Paper on Depleted Uranium
by the AD HOC Committee on Depleted Uranium (AHCDU)

Recent articles on Depleted Uranium munitions

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