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Scientist cited by British military to justify sending depleted uranium shells to Ukraine had previously criticised use of such ammunition in Iraq.


  • Sole body cited by UK military to defend Ukraine receiving depleted uranium weapons has not published new research on the subject for over 20 years
  • Italy’s defence ministry has compensated soldiers who developed cancer after exposure to depleted uranium on service in the Balkans
  • After the invasion of Iraq, the UK military accepted it had a ‘moral obligation’ to help clear depleted uranium debris from the rounds it had fired.

The Ministry of Defence claimed last week that research by the Royal Society – Britain’s premier scientific group – supported its controversial decision to send depleted uranium tank shells to Ukraine.

An MoD official briefed the media: “Independent research by scientists from groups such as the Royal Society has assessed that any impact to personal health and the environment from the use of depleted uranium munitions is likely to be low.”

The Royal Society was cited despite the group rebuking the Pentagon in 2003 for using their exact same research to justify American tanks firing the weapon in Iraq, Declassified UK has found.

When contacted, the scientific body told us: “In 2001/02, the Royal Society published two reports on the health hazards of depleted uranium munitions.” It provided links for the first and second report.

Their spokesperson added that depleted uranium “isn’t an active area of policy research for the Society, [and] we haven’t updated or published on this topic since those reports.”

In 2003, the US military used those Royal Society reports to defend the use of depleted uranium (DU) by coalition forces in Iraq.

That triggered a complaint to the media, with the Guardian saying the Royal Society was “incensed because the Pentagon had claimed it had the backing of the society in saying DU was not dangerous.

“In fact, the society said, both soldiers and civilians were in short and long term danger. Children playing at contaminated sites were particularly at risk.”

The chairman of the Royal Society’s working group on depleted uranium, Professor Brian Spratt, was quoted as warning that “a small number of soldiers might suffer kidney damage and an increased risk of lung cancer if substantial amounts of depleted uranium are breathed in, for instance inside an armoured vehicle hit by a depleted uranium penetrator.”

“In addition, large numbers of corroding depleted uranium penetrators embedded in the ground might pose a long-term threat if the uranium leaches into water supplies.”

He recommended that fragments from depleted uranium shells should be cleared up and long-term sampling of water supplies needed to be conducted. 

Spratt also countered claims about the safety of depleted uranium made by the UK’s then defence secretary Geoff Hoon, stressing: “It is is highly unsatisfactory to deploy a large amount of material that is weakly radioactive and chemically toxic without knowing how much soldiers and civilians have been exposed to it.”

………………………………………….. Shells containing more than 2.3 tonnes of depleted uranium were fired by British forces in operations against Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

US troops fired far larger quantities, especially around the city of Fallujah, where it has been blamed for birth defects and a spike in cancer cases.


The ammunition was also used by NATO on operations in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Italian soldiers who developed cancer after serving on those missions in the Balkans have successfully sued their defence ministry for compensation. Serbians have attempted similar litigation against NATO.

A study conducted in Kosovo by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) shortly after that conflict ended found “only low levels of radioactivity”. 

However, they were not able to consider the long term consequences and only inspected 11 out of 112 sites where DU had been fired. 

A later UNEP study in Serbia did find more significant corrosion of DU shells and that many of them were lodged deep in the ground.

A subsequent report by the UN in Bosnia found drinking water had been contaminated, albeit at low levels…………………………………………….. more


April 3, 2023 - Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, spinbuster, UK

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