Depleted Uranium is nuclear waste…quite literally…and it causes cancer and birth defects.
Depleted uranium is extracted from spent nuclear fuel. It is a waste byproduct of “enriching” uranium. It is a substance with some remarkable properties. It is denser than lead, harder than steel. Munitions tipped with DU are extremely effective, especially when engaging enemies using armored vehicles. These shells cut right through tank armor and then the uranium itself burns…at 500 degrees Celsius, (932 Fahrenheit). The only tanks or fixed fortifications that can repel depleted uranium munitions are those which themselves have armor made from depleted uranium. The use of DU on the battlefield is increasing, and it is used in “bunker buster” bombs, a variety of missiles and now in 30mm ammunition as well. Since the early 90’s it has been associated mostly with the M1A1 “Abrams” tank.
Depleted uranium is highly toxic and remains radioactive for over four billion years. Storing this waste material is a significant expense. Weapons manufacturers can get it free of charge from the US Dept. of Energy because it doesn’t have much civilian application, due to its radioactivity and toxicity. It has been used as ballast material in commercial planes, but for the most part companies are now using tungsten. When used as ammunition, depleted uranium releases “a whole mess of oxides…which is what makes it so wicked biologically.” according to Marion Fulk, a retired staff scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The main danger to humans is not actually from the low level radioactivity of DU, but is due to the fact that uranium is a highly toxic heavy metal and when it burns, these radioactive heavy metal oxides are released into the air.
On October 13th Al-Jazeera released a damning report on the effect these weapons are having on the Iraqi people. In 2004, Iraqi doctors diagnosed cancer in roughly 500 patients in Babil province, south of Baghdad. Since then, the rates have soared…to over 9000 last year. Reports of birth defects have risen dramatically. The effect of tiny nanoparticles of DU is exacerbated by Iraq’s famous dust storms, which spread the toxic material over a wide area.
DU is also the primary culprit behind illnesses we now refer to in the US as “Gulf War Syndrome.” In a few years the effects of depleted uranium on veterans of the current wars will also become clear. Most devastating to returning veterans will be the fact that their children will be at a very high risk for birth defects, such as the ones we see in children in Iraq. These weapons target the weakest and most innocent in any society, its newborns. Christopher Bollyn over at AmericanFreePress has been following this issue since 2004 and its effects on American veterans specifically. I strongly encourage anyone with interest in the issue to look up a series of reports he did in ’04, and I have linked to AmericanFreePress below.
Lets cut through some of the BS. Whether or not NATO or the Pentagon want to admit it, the use of depleted uranium munitions, particularly in civilian areas, is a war crime. These are weapons of mass destruction being used against a civilian population. While the primary intent is to kill enemy soldiers, the long lasting effect of these weapons on civilians is to cause a long-term man-made epidemic of cancer and birth defects.
In December 2008, 141 countries voted for a UN resolution requesting that the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency update their study of the effects of DU munitions and their effects on soldiers and civilians. Four (4) nations voted against the measure-France, Britain, The US and Israel. The measure lost…141 to 4. China and Russia abstained.
The primary wholesaler of DU is the Starmet corporation, which sells the material to (among others) Alliant Techsystems, which in turn makes bombs and ammunition. Starmet was located for many years in Concord, Mass. Its location there is now a Superfund site (since 2001), meaning that it is one of the most polluted areas in the whole country and public funds are now being used to clean it up. Starmet was dumping DU (a heavy metal) in an “unlined holding basin”…they were polluting the groundwater with uranium because they didn’t want to pay to responsibly store radioactive waste.
These two corporations are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity (and profit handsomely). Their partners for many years have been the Pentagon, the US congress, and NATO.
Mr. Obama, I voted for you (what a rube!). You have long expressed a desire to promote nonproliferation and the destruction of current nuclear stockpiles. Weapons that contain depleted uranium are weapons of mass destruction. The long term effects disproportionally target women and children. I’m not even asking you to ban the use of DU in the US military immediately. I only ask that you end opposition to renewed studies of the effects of DU munitions by the responsible agencies (IAEA and WHO). Please get on that right away!
Some great sources I used to write this article and I hope the reader will also take a look at: