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Report from Prague DU Conference

I was not the only one to arrive in the beautiful city of Prague last month with very little idea about the DU conference I was there to attend. With communication about the conference done almost exclusively on email, and no programme set in advance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In fact, as it turns out, the organisers didn’t know to expect me either, my registration having been lost in cyberspace. Lucky then, that the programme was very loosely arranged and my presentation about campaigning against DU could slot in. This open programme meant for some confusion, but also led to a relaxed and informal conference, with us working through the 15 presentations from participants. In fact, this event (more of a seminar than a conference), organised by the Czech group Res Publica, attracted a good range of DU researchers and scientists, with a smattering of journalists, observers, and a limited number of campaigners.

The majority of the presentations focused on the science of DU. Professor Schott from Germany outlined how DU induces mistakes in the chromosome repair systems, which leads to aberrations. These aberrations can be measured and analysed as a way of measuring DU contamination. His pilot study of the blood samples of nine European Gulf War Veterans showed ten times more aberrations than in the control study. He now wants to study more vets, and has remortgaged his house to pay for British veterans to travel to Germany for chromosome analysis.

Particularly interesting from a campaigning angle was the presentation by Pier Roberto Danesi, of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). He was part of the UNEP team which examined DU contamination in Kosovo (see CADU News 2 & CADU News 6), and though their report to the press earlier this year claimed that there was little to worry about, in fact their statistics prove otherwise. He outlined the way the measurements were taken, and stated that there was very definitely high levels of DU in many of the samples – 2000 times more U238 than appears normally in the environment in some samples. He also stated that this was a picture in time, in that the particles can be re-suspended (something which has been argued about by scientists). Most significantly, he said that the majority of particles present in the samples were of a size which can be inhaled, and that this is the major concern about DU. Considering the IAEA’s stance on low level radiation (that it is not a problem for human health), and their reliance on the flawed risk models of the ICRP, this was unusually frank. Their research also looked into so called ‘dirty DU’, i.e. DU contaminated with plutonium, but while there was some plutonium found in some samples, he claimed this was in the environment from the nuclear bomb tests of the 1960’s.

Dr Busby showed that the high levels of DU found by UNEP in Kosovo had been hidden in a table of incomprehensible scientific figures, which would mean little to members of the press. He went on to outline why the ICRP risk model was so flawed, and his second event theory (if cells are repeatedly hit by radiation they are more likely to mutate, whereas a huge radiation dose would cause cells to die). More detailed info is on the highly recommended low level radiation website at http://www.llrc.org.

Djordje Jovanovic, President of the World Serb Congress told of the increase in cancers and tumours in Serbia, and the woefully inadequate amount of money being put into environmental clean up by NATO forces.

Alfredo Embid, Coordinator of the Coalicion para la Abolicion de las Armas Radiactivas in Madrid outlined several studies on low level radiation including one from the Medical Research Council of Harwell published in April 2001. This study showed that alpha radiation emitted by one particle of DU causes degradation of chromosomes in the blood. More info on their website at http://www.amcmh.org

Dai Williams, independent DU researcher presented a clear and well argued case on DU & Afghanistan and Piotr Bein presented Venik’s argument as to the ineffectiveness of DU, contrary to military propaganda. Apparently in Serbia, only about 2% of bullets hit the target, with the rest ending up on the soil, and it is for reasons of ineffectiveness that Russia does not use the DU bullets in its arsenal.

Other contributors included Marek Glogoczowski a molecular physicist from Poland, a colleague of Dr Gunther’s from Germany, Marion an anti-nuclear activist from Germany, and others from Japan, Italy, and Czech Republic.

Res Publica, the organisers, will present the reports from the conference to Vaclav Havel, after his initial interest in the issue caused them to initiate the conference. They also aim to publish the report with all contributions in February next year. They can be contacted on du@publica.cz

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From CADU News 9: Winter 2001/2002

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