Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

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Summary of FR Yugoslavia Report entitled 'The Consequences of NATO Bombing for the Environment in FR Yugoslavia'

The above report was published earlier this year by the Yugoslav Federal Ministry for Development, Science and the Environment. It deals with a number of different issues from oil and other pollutants, but below is just a summary of the chapter dealing with DU. (This does not represent CADU's views)
"During NATO air strikes against FR Yugoslavia, A-10A aircraft fired shells with depleted uranium-238 from 30mm guns. These aircraft were part of the formations that bombed facilities in FR Yugoslavia on March 30, 1999 in the broader Prizren region and later were part of several formations that bombed facilities in the zone south of the 44th parallel.
During the war, units from the Yugoslav Army's Atomic-Biological-Chemical Defence made radiological and chemical investigations of the regions in which A-10A aircraft operated . During this period the remains of munitions with depleted uranium were found on April 18, 1999 in the broader region of Bujanovac, on May 30, 1999 in the region of Cape Arza on the Lustice peninsula and later in the broader region of Vranje.
After the NATO aggression ended a more detailed investigation began along with the removal of the remains of munitions with depleted uranium. Evidence was found that NATO forces used these arms on 8 sites in FRY south of the 44th parallel. Seven sites were in the Republic of Serbia and one was in the Republic of Montenegro.
The remains of weapons with depleted uranium were take from the surface of the soil in the investigated regions and deposited in radioactive waste storage.
Contaminated soil was registered in each of the above regions. The co-ordinates of all restricted areas have been defined. Brief accounts of the contaminated soil were made.
It is difficult to establish precisely the amount of depleted uranium that contaminated these sites. Based on the reports of Yugoslav Army units and commands compiled during the war, the results of investigating regions under attack, and data about these types of weapon and how they are used it can be estimated that NATO forces fired around 3000-5000 shells which is the equivalent of around 1-1.5 tonnes of uranium 238 as a contaminating agent.
Based on investigations of projectile fragments and gamma spectrometric measurements with the identification of radionuclides, there is positive proof that NATO forces used API PGU-14/B munitions fired from A-10A aircraft from a GAU 8/A seven barrelled 30mm Gatling type gun.
We have several whole cores (tips) of missiles made of depleted uranium, their fragments and guide rings. Soil samples were taken from the sites; in addition to on-the-spot measurements, the entire material was analysed in the Vinca Institute for Nuclear Science, the Institute for Industrial medicine in Nis and the Military Hospital. The results of some samples showed indisputable contamination with the specific activity of U-238 going up to 235,000 Bq/kg.
The gamma dose upon contact with the tip was found to be 0.1 mGy/h. Based on values prescribed by the International Agency for Atomic Energy in Vienna, the analysed projectile fragments were classified as radioactive material whose usage in peacetime is only possible with the implementation of prescribed safety precautions.
"Bearing in mind the speed with which the weapons were fired and the estimated amounts used, the high probability of self-ignition and radioactivity measurements that were several hundred times greater than the natural content of uranium in the soil (10-50Bq/kg), it can be concluded that the use of these weapons led to contamination of the environment with long term consequences for both the environment and the local population" (from the report by the Vinca Institute for Nuclear Science) [the report goes on to give details of the possible health effects of DU]
The degree of danger is illustrated by the following example. In February 1980 a court order from the State of New York forced National Lead industries, a manufacturer of DU tips, to stop production since they had exceeded the prescribed monthly limits of discharging radioactive material into the air of 150 Ci. This value corresponds to 387g of DU. The tip of only one shell in the 30mm gun contains 298g of DU. In his letter to the Atomic Scientists' Bulletin, Mr Dietz asks if the authorities were worried about discharges that were the monthly equivalent of the particles in only 1 or 2 uranium projectiles, why wasn't the US government worried about the effects of tens of thousands of projectiles fired in the several days of the Gulf War?
[the report goes on to express suspicion of NATO motives in that they bombed regions with a large percentage of Albanians, suggesting that they wanted to destroy future generations of Albanians as their growth rate is among the highest in the world. It also mentions that the US Army's radiology unit report suggested press releases should be issued to prevent possible negative international reaction to the use of DU due to public concerns. The report also offers the use of tungsten or titanium as an alternative, stating that the only reason to use DU was a cheap way of getting rid of waste. It also outlines ways in which "using arms with depleted uranium is a violation of the basic principles of international humanitarian law."]
The report concludes
"The identification of regions where depleted uranium was used has enabled the definition of appropriate measures to clean up the consequences. Activities have been undertaken that considerably decrease the danger from contamination in these regions. Medical examinations were made of potentially most the endangered persons. A full-scale clean-up campaign is forthcoming. However, the decontamination of terrain contaminated by depleted uranium is very difficult. Considerable funds must be provided in order to remove the great amounts of contaminated soil and place it in special radioactive waste storage. This will require assistance from the international community."
Readers could write to their governments to encourage the provision of the assistance that this huge task will require.

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From CADU News 4: Autumn 2000

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