Depleted uranium

Depleted uranium

Depleted uranium (DU) is nasty stuff.  Left over from nuclear reactors, it is used by the U.S. military in weapons because it is very hard, and thus penetrates armor quickly, plus it burns ferociously when it explodes. With the added benefit that DU weapons are a swell way to get rid of nuclear waste piling up in reactors. Well, DU weapons don’t actually get rid of the nuclear waste, rather they just scatter it over warzones far, far from the U.S..

DU is quite toxic and has a half life of 4.4 billion years. The U.S. has used hundreds of tons of it in both Iraq invasions. Birth defects have soared in areas of Iraq where it has been used. DU has also been linked to Gulf War Syndrome, and more than a few vets have become seriously ill because of exposure to it.

Introduction to DU

“The misnamed ‘Depleted’ Uranium is left after enriched uranium is separated from natural uranium in order to produce fuel for nuclear reactors. During this process, the fissionable isotope Uranium 235 is separated from uranium.  The remaining uranium, which is 99.8% uranium 238 is misleadingly called ‘depleted uranium’.

Depleted uranium is chemically toxic.  It is an extremely dense, hard metal, and can cause chemical poisoning to the body in the same way as can lead or any other heavy metal. However, depleted uranium is also radiologically hazardous, as it spontaneously burns on impact, creating tiny aerosolised glass particles which are small enough to be inhaled.”

Two useful resources are a book and video about DU. both titled Metal of Dishonor, with commentary by well-known scientists, and others.

Book: Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium, How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers & Civilians with DU Weapons.

“Scientists, Gulf War veterans, leaders of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-military and community movements discuss: the connection of DU to Gulf War Syndrome and a new generation of radioactive conventional weapons.

Authors include former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Dr. Michio Kaku, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Jay M. Gould, Dan Fahey, Sara Flounders, Manuel Pino and many others.”

Video: Metal of Dishonor, 50 min. (scroll down, click Metal of Dishonor to view video)
“Expose of Pentagon use of depleted uranium weapons which have compromised the health of tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians in the U.S. and Gulf region. Contains interviews with Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Michio Kaku, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.”

Many military sources have denied that DU poses any health threats, however from a BBC interview comes the following:

Andrew Thompson:
Obviously there must be those scientists who work for the government who deny any connection between DU pollution and other problems. What is their reasoning?

Alex Kirby:
I have no idea how they can fly in the face of what seems very clear evidence. For example a 1995 report from the US Army Environmental Policy Institute said: “If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences.”

It just occurred to me that if another country used DU on us, we might well call it a weapon of mass destruction. And, hmmm, if DU is supposed to be so safe, then why do nuclear reactors take such great cautions when storing it?

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium
BBC DU site
Yahoo DU site
Silver Bullet: Depleted Uranium. CBC site
The Guardian DU site with an interactive guide