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  • German military floats plan to equip its tanks with depleted uranium to a sceptical nation

    In an effort to be seen to be responding to Russian military activities in Ukraine and Crimea, the Bundeswehr is floating plans to arm Leopard tanks taken out of storage with DU ammunition, even as its allies look for alternatives in response to the global stigmatisation of the weapons.
  • Canada must do more on depleted uranium weapons

    ICBUW has produced a new briefing on Canada and DU weapons, it finds that in spite of claims to the contrary, Canada has shown little international leadership on the issue. Available to download in English and French.
  • ICBUW needs your help if our work is to continue.

    Last week, the Norwegian government announced that it will no longer fund ICBUW’s research and advocacy on DU weapons. We are now facing a funding crisis that could result in us having to close the secretariat and make the staff redundant.
  • The A-10 warthog: raising depleted uranium’s threshold of acceptability

    The apparent U-turn by the Pentagon over DU use by aircraft in Operation Inherent Resolve has been cautiously welcomed by campaigners, but is it a sign of a wider policy shift? Is the threshold of acceptability for the use of DU in operations rising in response to international pressure over the controversial munitions and what part has the A-10 played in this?
  • Pentagon announces U-turn on use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Syria

    The Pentagon has announced that depleted uranium (DU) munitions have not, and will not, be used by US aircraft in the conflict against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The policy U-turn contrasts with statements made over previous months, where Pentagon officials claimed that DU would be used if needed; the decision reflects a growing stigmatisation of the controversial weapons.

US to demilitarise 78,000 depleted uranium tank rounds

The US Army has awarded a US$12m contract to defence contractor General Dynamics for the demilitarisation and disposal of 78,000 ageing DU tank rounds as new rounds are added to its war reserves.
9 May 2014 - ICBUW

On May 6th the US Army announced the winning contract for the demilitarisation and disposal of a large stockpile of ageing DU ammunition. While not made clear in the contract award, the stockpile is thought to comprise of a mixture of 105mm and 120mm ammunition:

C524 M833 105mm,
C543 M900 105mm,
C380 M829A1 120mm,
C792 M829A2 120mm.

As befits the beneficial circularity of US defence contracting, General Dynamics, the winner of the US$12m contract, had originally manufactured and sold some of the 120mm rounds  to the US Army.

The M833 and M900 rounds entered service in 1983 and 1989 respectively, with the M900 superseding the M833. The M833 was originally designed for use by the M1 Abrams and M60 Patton tanks, with the M900 cleared for use in the M1 Abrams and Stryker Mobile Gun System. Both rounds were exported widely during the 1990s, with NATO members and states with Major Non-NATO Ally status eligible.

M829E4 Later versions of the M1 Abrams abandoned the 105mm main gun, this was replaced with a 120mm gun that used the M829 round. The A1 and A2 were early variants and have now been superseded by upgrades. Test firing of the current developmental upgrade, the fifth generation version – the M829E4 - has taken place this year. Following the tests Lt. Col. Brian Gruchacz, product manager for Large Caliber Ammunition was reported as saying that: "The M829E4 adds capability to the Abrams system without adding responsibility." ICBUW presumes that he was referring to the alleged overmatch capability of the round, rather than the legacy of contamination it leaves on both range and battlefield.

The US Army is set to buy 2501 M829E4 rounds this year for its war reserves at a cost of US$30.168m, or US$10,100 each. The rounds will be manufactured and sold by Alliant Tech Systems. Coincidentally, US$30m was the lower estimate for the cost of decontaminating the 350 known DU impact sites in Iraq.  

Once demilitarised, the fate of the DU metal from the penetrators is unclear. DU is alloyed with small quantities of titanium or molybdenum when used as penetrators, if the alloys are still appropriate for the new generation rounds they may be recycled, if not they will become part of the US’s vast stockpile of waste DU, necessitating indefinite storage as Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste. Other parts of the weapon assemblies, such as the aluminium sabot petals will need to be disposed of as Low Level Radioactive Waste.

For more information on the perceived utility of large calibre tank rounds read our report Overstating the Case.