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Depleted Uranium and the movement to ban radioactive weapons

“Nuke ‘Em All, and Let Allah Sort It Out”, History News Network   by William Schroder, 1 June 18  

“……….A left over by-product of Cold War weapons building, thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium(DU) – only 60% as powerful as natural uranium and therefore useless to the thermonuclear arms industry – pile up in temporary storage facilities such as Yucca Mountain, Nevada and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. What to do with it? In the late 1950s, U.S. and U.K. weapons experts discovered a use for at least some of it. Far denser than lead, a DU coating gives conventional rockets, missiles and small arms ammunition extraordinary armor penetrating capability, a definite advantage against Soviet tanks and other “hard targets.” In the 1990s, as the Cold War waned, the U.S. and British arms manufacturers continued to produce DU ordinance. First used in combat in the Gulf War, an estimated250-300 tons of DU ammunition was expended during Operation Desert Storm and many times that in Bosnia, Kosovo and the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

DU munitions persist despite the fact their use violates the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the 1925 Geneva Poison Gas Protocol. DU also meets the definition of a WMD in US Code Title 50, Chapter 40 Sec. 2302: “The term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors; (B) a disease organism; or (C) radiation or radioactivity.”

In addition, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed resolutions in 1996 and 1997stating the use of uranium ammunition is not in conformity with existing international Human Rights Law.

Although only 40 percent as radioactive as natural uranium, DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and places all life forms at risk. As the material decays, alpha, beta and gamma radiation is released into the environment and contaminates the air, water and soil. Laboratory tests on animals show internalized alpha particles do more chromosome damage than 100 times that of an equivalent amount of other radiation. In an article published in the International Journal of Health Services, Dr. Rosalie Bertell wrote during the height of the war in Iraq, “The chief radiological hazard from DU is alpha radiation. In one day, one microgram (one millionth of a gram) of DU can release 107,000 alpha particles, each particle charged with more than four million electron volts of energy – and it only requires 6 to10 electron volts to break a DNA strand in a cell.

In the years following the 1991 Gulf War, tissue analysis reports from a hospital in Basra, Iraq showed a 160 percent increase in uterine cancer among Iraqi civilians, a 143 percent increase in thyroid cancer, a 102 percent increase in breast cancer and an 82 percent increase in leukemia. Doug Weir, the Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons, quotes Iraqi oncologist, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali: “We have also seen a rise in the presence of double and triple cancers in patients. We know many carcinogenic factors are available in our environment, but the (cancer) rates increased only a few years after the 1991 war, and now after the 2003 conflict, we have started to have another alarming increase.”

While the U.S. is by far the largest user of DU munitions, a score of other countries have DU weapons in their arsenals. Why? Who profits? In the United States, three companies produce uranium enhanced ordinance – Alliant Techsystems of Edina, MinnesotaDay & Zimmermann of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and General Dynamics of Falls Church, Virginia. According to a November 2007 article in theNew Internationalist, “DU is expensive and hazardous to store, so it is produced at a very low cost to arms manufacturers. Arms manufacturer, Alliant Techsystems has produced more than 15 million 30mm PGU-14 shells for the U.S. Air Force and over a million M829 rounds for the U.S. Army. They also produce small caliber rounds (25mm, 30mm) for guns on U.S. aircraft and fighting vehicles… In February 2006, the U.S. Army placed an order for $38 million of M829 rounds, bringing the total order from Alliant Techsystems to $77 million for that fiscal year.”

Despite the huge profit motive behind the manufacture and use of DU ordinance, the movement to ban radioactive weapons grows. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) has 80 member organizations worldwide and campaigns “for an explicit international treaty that would not only ban uranium weapons but also cover the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.” The European Organization of Military Associations (EUROMIL), consisting of 34 military associations from 22 countries, also calls for a ban. “EUROMIL recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of soldiers performing duties in areas where DU weapons were used. To counteract such effects, governments should ensure measures are put into place that guarantee the safety and protection of troops during their missions in areas contaminated as a result of the use of DU. EUROMIL also recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of the population in the area where DU weapons were used. Therefore, EUROMIL strongly urges governments to ban the use of DU weapons and to use their influence to appeal to their worldwide partners to abandon the use of these weapons.”

Disseminating nuclear waste among the innocent civilians of the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria is malfeasance of the highest order. For America to hold her reputation as a nation of justice and high moral purpose, it must reverse present policy and take the lead in a worldwide ban on depleted uranium weaponry. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169193

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July 2, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, depleted uranium, Reference

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