Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What is "depleted uranium"?

Some important points to consider:

* DU is a radioactive waste product left over from enriching uranium for use in nuclear power reactors, which can then be turned into a devastating weapon of war.

* It is only "depleted" of U-235, but still full of radioactive U-238 - the main isotope in natural uranium.

* DU is an extremely dense, heavy metal that is used in everything from armour-piercing shells, to tank armour, sniper bullets, landmines, bunker buster bombs, artillery rounds and linings in thermonuclear warheads.

* DU actually sharpens as it travels through the air in shells or missiles, and remains sharp once it hits and penetrates its target. It then heats up and ignites, creating a furiously hot ball of dust, gas and schrapnel.

* DU is also a highly toxic metal, like lead or mercury, as well as being radioactive. The danger comes from breathing it in or swallowing it, or being hit by schrapnel that can't be removed. The wind has no boundaries, so no corner of the globe is safe.

* As it burns, DU sends up smoke containing fine particles of uranium oxide, which can lodge in the lungs, organs and bones, giving out a steady dose of radiation. Contaminated dust can blow onto agriculture, and pass into the food chain. The particles are so small they can pass easily into the cell nucleus, and can cause mutations. Of course, they pass straight through a gas mask.
* DU can kill countless millions of people for centuries to come - radioactive DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years!

* Thousands of tonnes of DU have been used by the West in Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Battlefields go back to being people's homes, and soldiers go home, but the "walking death" goes with them always.

* The long-term effect of DU weapons is a "virtual death sentence", according to Arthur Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York.

* The US, UK (& Australia?) have been using DU weapons in Iraq since the first Gulf War in 1991. Since the 2003 invasion, it is estimated that perhaps 2200 tons of DU have been spread around Iraq (UKAEA).

* DU is a cause of cancers, various diseases and horribly deformed babies into future generations, for the local people and the soldiers who use them. Doctors in Iraq estimate birth defects have increased by 2-6 times, and 3-12 times as many children have developed cancer and leukaemia since 1991.

* The US uses DU shells during military training, including in host nations, without necessarily telling them at the time (e.g. Puerto Rico, Japan). Australia has signed an agreement to increase the use of Australia as a US military training and testing site.

* Bombing other countries with radioactive waste is a monstrous war crime against humanity, and the global environment. As one Vietnam War medic puts it: "Uranium weapons are like Agent Orange on steroids."

* DU munitions violate the Geneva Convention, and are classified by a United Nations resolution as illegal weapons of mass destruction, "incompatible with international humanitarian and human rights law." The EU has twice called for DU weapons to be banned.

* Britain and the US not only used DU in this current Iraq war, they dramatically increased its use - from a minimum of 320 tons in the 1991 Gulf War to a minimum of 1500 tons in this one. Before it was mainly used in anti-tank weapons, but now has been extended to guided missiles and large bombs used in Iraq's cities.

* Far from banning DU, the US and Britain have stepped up their denials of the harm from this radioactive dust, as even more of their own troops become seriously ill.

* The military-industrial complex is hooked on DU and won't take kindly to a challenge. Expect lies and misinformation about DU from our powerful "friends" who wish to continue using it as a weapon of mass destruction in wars!

* That the scientific evidence of the terrible consequences of DU has been officially ignored or dismissed may be no accident. A US report, leaked in late 1995, allegedly says:

"The potential for health effects from DU exposure is real; however it must be viewed in perspective...the financial implications of long-term disability payments and healthcare costs would be excessive."

And that's the least of our worries!


Melbourne Age newspaper 'Good Weekend' magazine, October 22, 2005.
'Uncensored' magazine, NZ - Vol 1 Number 1, Spring 2005 - which lists many references.

Further information:

Low Level Radiation Campaign www.llrc.org

James Denver http://www.coastalport.com/05/04/09.htm

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