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Will the West turn Ukraine into a nuclear battlefield?

Stuart Dyson  died in 2008 at the age of 39…….. his cancer was later recognized in a court of law as having been caused by exposure to depleted uranium. In a landmark 2009 ruling, jurors at the Smethwick Council House in the UK found that Dyson’s cancer had resulted from DU accumulating in his body, and in particular his internal organs.

While the UK’s decision to send depleted uranium shells is unlikely to turn the tide, it will have a lasting, potentially devastating, impact.

APRIL 26, 2023 byJoshua Frank

It’s sure to be a blood-soaked spring in Ukraine. Russia’s winter offensive fell far short of Vladimir Putin’s objectives, leaving little doubt that the West’s conveyor belt of weaponry has aided Ukraine’s defenses. Cease-fire negotiations have never truly begun, while NATO has only strengthened its forces thanks to Finland’s new membership (with Sweden soon likely to follow). Still, tens of thousands of people have perished; whole villages, even cities, have been reduced to rubble; millions of Ukrainians have poured into Poland and elsewhere; while Russia’s brutish invasion rages on with no end in sight.

The hope, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is that the Western allies will continue to furnish money, tanks, missiles, and everything else his battered country needs to fend off Putin’s forces. The war will be won, according to Zelensky, not through backroom compromises but on the battlefield with guns and ammo.

“I appeal to you and the world with these most simple and yet important words,” he said to a joint session of Great Britain’s parliament in February. “Combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom.”

The United Kingdom, which has committed well over $2 billion in assistance to Ukraine, has so far refused to ship fighter jets there but has promised to supply more weaponry, including tank shells made with depleted uranium (DU), also known as “radioactive bullets.” A by-product of uranium enrichment, DU is a very dense and radioactive metal that, when housed in small torpedo-like munitions, can pierce thickly armored tanks and other vehicles.

Reacting to the British announcement, Putin ominously said he would “respond accordingly” if the Ukrainians begin blasting off rounds of DU.

Stuart Dyson survived his deployment in the first Gulf War of 1991, where he served as a lance corporal with Britain’s Royal Pioneer Corps. His task in Kuwait was simple enough: he was to help clean up “dirty” tanks after they had seen battle. Many of the machines he spent hours scrubbing down had carried and fired depleted uranium shells used to penetrate and disable Iraq’s T-72 tanks, better known as the Lions of Babylon.

Dyson spent five months in that war zone, ensuring American and British tanks were cleaned, armed, and ready for battle. When the war ended, he returned home, hoping to put his time in the Gulf War behind him. He found a decent job, married, and had children. Yet his health deteriorated rapidly and he came to believe that his military service was to blame. Like so many others who had served in that conflict, Dyson suffered from a mysterious and debilitating illness that came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome.

After Dyson suffered years of peculiar ailments, ranging from headaches to dizziness and muscle tremors, doctors discovered that he had a severe case of colon cancer, which rapidly spread to his spleen and liver. The prognosis was bleak and, after a short battle, his body finally gave up. Stuart Dyson died in 2008 at the age of 39.

His saga is unique, not because he was the only veteran of the first Gulf War to die of such a cancer at a young age, but because his cancer was later recognized in a court of law as having been caused by exposure to depleted uranium. In a landmark 2009 ruling, jurors at the Smethwick Council House in the UK found that Dyson’s cancer had resulted from DU accumulating in his body, and in particular his internal organs……………………………………………………………………………………

Both Russia and the U.S. have reasons for using DU, since each has piles of the stuff sitting around with nowhere to put it. Decades of manufacturing nuclear weapons have created a mountain of radioactive waste. In the U.S., more than 500,000 tons of depleted-uranium waste has built up since the Manhattan Project first created atomic weaponry, much of it in Hanford, Washington, the country’s main plutonium production site. As I investigated in my book Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, Hanford is now a cesspool of radioactive and chemical waste, representing the most expensive environmental clean-up project in history with an estimated price tag of $677 billion………………………………………………………….

Of course, we’ve known about the dangers of uranium for decades, which makes it all the more mind-boggling to see a renewed push for increased mining of that radioactive ore to generate nuclear power. The only way to ensure that uranium doesn’t poison or kill anyone is to leave it right where it’s always been: in the ground. Sadly, even if you were to do so now, there would still be tons of depleted uranium with nowhere to go. A 2016 estimate put the world’s mountain of DU waste at more than one million tons (each equal to 2,000 pounds).

So why isn’t depleted uranium banned? That’s a question antinuclear activists have been asking for years. It’s often met with government claims that DU isn’t anywhere near as bad as its peacenik critics allege. In fact, the U.S. government has had a tough time even acknowledging that Gulf War Syndrome exists. A Government Accountability Office report released in 2017 found that the Veterans Affairs Department had denied more than 80% of all Gulf War illness claims by veterans. Downplaying DU’s role, in other words, comes with the terrain.

“The use of DU in weapons should be prohibited,” maintains Ray Acheson, an organizer for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and author of Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy. “While some governments argue there is no definitive proof its use in weapons causes harm, it is clear from numerous investigations that its use in munitions in Iraq and other places has caused impacts on the health of civilians as well as military personnel exposed to it, and that it has caused long-term environmental damage, including groundwater contamination. Its use in weapons is arguably in violation of international law, human rights, and environmental protection and should be banned in order to ensure it is not used again.”

If the grisly legacy of the American use of depleted uranium tells us anything, it’s that those DU shells the British are supplying to Ukraine (and the ones the Russians may also be using there) will have a radioactive impact that will linger in that country for years to come, with debilitating, potentially fatal, consequences. It will, in a sense, be part of a global atomic war that shows no sign of ending.


April 28, 2023 - Posted by | depleted uranium, Ukraine

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