Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Introduction | News | Information | Resources | Affiliate | Action | Links | Contact

July 2007


The Strange Case of the DU and the Joint Strike Fighter
The Human Cost of Uranium Weapons
Pushing at an Open Door?
Iraq’s Environment Minister Blames DU for Cancer Epidemic
Activist Murdered at Uranium Enrichment Plant Demo
Livermore Bomb Lab Seeks Bigger Blasts
Irish Church Condemns Airport’s Military Use
Campaign News
Future Events
A Word From our Coordinator

The Strange Case of the DU and the Joint Strike Fighter

A few weeks ago, CADU learned that the latest US-UK ‘Big Defence Project’ - the F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), will be designed to fire depleted uranium ammunition.

The three variants of the JSF - Joint Strike Fighter

This is not without precedent, as the US Army’s A10 ‘Tankbuster’ aircraft and the US Navy’s Harriers also fire DU rounds; the former being responsible for most of the DU contamination in the Balkans. However, as yet the UK has managed to avoid aircraft that fire DU. So it was a concerned CADU that drafted a letter to the Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson. His answer was surprising and we shall come back to it later.

The JSF is apparently the largest military aircraft procurement scheme in history, with the project extending well beyond the US and UK, although they are the main players. In all, nine countries including the two mentioned have ordered the aircraft.

The manufacturers claim that the three variants on the design will replace many of the supersonic strike and ground attack fighters currently in use. This includes the A10, which some now consider old for an aircraft. Observant readers may be wondering how a supersonic jet will replace a low level, low speed lumbering gunship like the A10 - rest assured, you’re not alone.

The three main arms companies involved in the scheme are Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, although plenty of others will be picking up minor contracts for technological components along the way. There has already been some disquiet from the main partner country, the UK, over the US’s reluctance in handing over the software codes that will allow engineers to make vital updates to the aircraft’s computers; but then we do have a ‘special relationship’.

In addition to being a platform for a selection of bombs and missiles, the JSF will come with a cannon fitted as standard. Said cannon is a four-barreled version of the DU armed GAU-12 Gatling Gun, which is fitted to US A10s, and C130 ‘Spooky’ Gunships.

Because of the DU ammunition, the GAU-22A cannon has been worrying some of the JSF’s prospective customers.These include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway. None of these states currently uses DU ammunition and should they decide to go ahead with it, it would push the number of DU user states above 20 for the first time. However, in November 2006 it was reported that Australia, Norway and Denmark were investigating alternative ammunition options. These are likely to be tungsten-based composites.

As yet there is no non-DU round available but it is thought that several customers have joined together to develop an alternative; Austalia’s ADI, Rheinmetall subsidiary Oerlikon and Norway’s Raufoss were due to present this alternative to the US for testing at the end of 2006. Unfortunately, US legislation demands that any round would need to undergo testing by the US Foreign Comparative Test [FCT] programme. To add insult to injury, this will cost states more than $30m.

Now then, back to what Lord Drayson said: “...the UK currently has no requirement for a gun as part of the weapons inventory for its JSF and therefore has no ammunition requirement of either a DU or Tungsten nature.”

As with the Eurofighter, it sounds as if the UK’s cannon will be replaced by a lump of concrete. JSF? Worth every penny.

The Human Cost of Uranium Weapons

CADU worker Doug Weir, also co-ordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) helped put on a powerful exhibition of photos in the European Parliament in early May. The black and white photos were taken by Japanese photographer Naomi Toyoda. He has been covering the story of Iraq since 1999 as a photojournalist and has become strongly convinced of the link between the use of DU in the first Gulf War and children’s cancers and leukaemia seen today. He says that for the Japanese, the victims of DU are the new Hibakusha, (the name given to the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs).

Photographer Naomi Toyoda. (Apolonia Lobo)

His photos were starkly beautiful but deeply disturbing. They showed children, women and men of Iraq - and one from the US - affected by DU poisoning. Victims of cancer or children with birth malformations, all were portrayed with dignity and with great compassion.

Visitors shocked by the images. (Apolonia Lobo)

Many people came to see the exhibition: MEPs, their research assistants, civil servants or diplomats. No one could remain unmoved and more than one wept openly. They were tears not just of pity, but of rage at those who had strewn this poison, DU, so carelessly, so callously, across the land of Iraq.

MEPs Dr Caroline Lucas and Els de Groen who supported the event. (Apolonia Lobo)

Dr Ali, the Senior Oncologist at the Basra Teaching Hospital, filled out the story behind the photos as we walked round. “This woman was one of my patients. Her young husband left her as the tumour on her neck grew, saying he hadn’t been told she had cancer.” “This little girl developed a cancer not seen in one so young in your country.” “This little boy loved football. We amputated one leg to try to save him, but he never made it.” “This”, pointing to a photo of an expanse of tiny gravestones, with two despairing figures hunched over one of them, “is the children’s graveyard.”

No-one whose memory has been seared by the sight of these photos will ever forget them. No politicians who have sanctioned the use of DU should be allowed to forget the harm they have done.

The exhibition will be touring European capitals over the next year, starting with Helsinki, Finland.

Geneva Lobbying: Pushing at an Open Door?

The reception given to the four ICBUW delegates who visited Geneva following the exhibition in Brussels was very encouraging. They were there to lobby as many delegates to the Conference on Disarmament as possible about the next step in the campaign to seek the abolition of depleted uranium weapons. The ambassadors had been well prepared by CADU’s worker, Doug Weir, who had sent them lots of well-researched information about the nature and dangers of DU weapons and a copy of the resolution ICBUW wants them to support at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in the autumn.

Delegates, frustrated by the stalling manoeuvres of the nuclear weapons states at the Conference on Disarmament were frankly enthusiastic at the prospect of being able to make some progress on any sort of disarmament measure.

Time - and the limitations of funds (all were self financed) - only allowed the ICBUW representatives to visit the embassies of Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Italy, Sweden, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea. Only the latter was non-committal about supporting the resolution. (This may have had something to do with the closeness of their relations with the United States, users, of course, of DU weapons.)

The others varied from cautious support to a warm welcome. “This resolution is absolutely in line with our government’s thinking” enthused one diplomat. Another revealed that the military in his country “doesn’t buy DU, doesn’t use it and doesn’t want it!” Another compared the use of DU to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and more than one was reminded by the evidence of DU’s harmful health effects of the plight of the Hibakusha, the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings. Those who lived in Nuclear Free Zones were very proud of this status, and as a step to a DU free world, some delegates were keen on the idea of creating DU Free Zones

However, as was to be expected, all the diplomats had to refer the matter to their political masters at home for a final decision. One country offered to ‘lead’ on the presentation of this issue, subject to his capital city agreeing, but much more work is needed to guarantee the support of many other nations for the resolution if it is to be successful.

(Please see the ICBUW website for the text of the resolution that we aim to put to the UN General Assembly.)

Iraq’s Environment Minister Blames DU for Cancer Epidemic

Iraq: Speaking in Cairo on July 23rd, Iraq's environment minister blamed the use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. forces during the 2003 Operation Shock and Awe for the current surge in cancer cases across the country.

As a result of "at least 350 sites in Iraq being contaminated during bombing" with depleted uranium (DU) weapons, Nermin Othman said, the nation is facing about 140,000 cases of cancer, with 7,000 to 8,000 new ones registered each year.

Iraqi Environment Minister Dr Mishkat Moumin

Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Arab League, she also complained that many chemical plants and oil facilities had been destroyed during the two military campaigns since the 1990s, but the ecological consequences remain unclear.

"Our ministry is fledgling, and we need international support; notably, we need laboratories to better monitor air and water contamination," she said.

No major clean-up or public awareness campaigns have been reported in Iraq.

This is thought to be the first time that a member of the Iraqi Government has spoken out against DU. In our experience, Iraqi diplomats have been unwilling to discuss the issue with ICBUW representatives. CADU had suspected this was due to pressure from the US.

Activist Murdered at Uranium Enrichment Plant Demo

Russia: In the early morning of 21st July, neo-nazi skinheads launched a vicious and unprovoked attack on an anti-nuclear protest camp in Angarsk, Siberia, Russia.

The nazis violently attacked activists in their sleeping bags and tents with iron rods, knives and air pressure guns. 21-year-old Ilya Borodaenko from Nachodka suffered a head-fracture during the attack and later died in hospital from his injuries. At least nine others have been reported to be seriously injured, one of whom has had both legs broken. Tents were set on fire and several belongings were stolen.

The camp had started the week before and was aimed at protesting against a planned centre of uranium enrichment in Angarsk. Ever since the arrival of the activists, the police tried to intimidate them and had entered the camp in an attempt to gather information about planned actions. The organisation who planned the camp, the 'Ecological Wave of Baikal', had planned various rallies in the surrounding area to inform locals about the plans and drum up support for the campaign.

Although the protesters knew about the planned attack and had organised night guards, they were much too few to stop the attack. Police said at least 15 assailants raided the camp at the Yelovskoye Reservoir near the city of Angarsk. Police claim that two attackers have been arrested, and at least 13 others have been identified.

Ros-Atom (the state agency for Russia’s nuclear industry) has plans to establish an International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) at the Angarsk uranium enrichment plant (AUEP) to supply fuel to Russian and other nuclear power stations. The site is within the boundaries of the town of Angarsk, 30 km from Irkutsk and 100 km from Lake Baikal, which is the world’s deepest lake and classed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as a World Natural Heritage Site. With neither a buffer safety area nor radiation-control zone, campaigners say the new proposals pave the way for another nuclear disaster.

One of the main points of debate is that of the storage of nuclear waste. As Russia will produce uranium fuel for many nations, it will be obligated to reclaim the spent nuclear fuel once it is burned in foreign reactors. This is because many countries have no or little nuclear storage space of their own. According to the 'Ecological Wave of Baikal', at present, waste in the form of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUH), produced as a result of uranium enrichment, is kept at the Angarsk plant in storage casks in the open.

The 'Ecological Wave of Baikal' is one of a few groups who continue to ask questions and in doing so have gathered an ever increasing number of supporters within the local community. “We declare a decisive no to Rosatom’s plans to build the International Uranium Enrichment Centre in Angarsk, no to illegal imports from abroad of radioactive waste in the form of uranium tailings to the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Combine,” reads a resolution issued by the No to Chernobyl at Baikal assembly which took place in Irkutsk last December, drawing some 150 people. Eight thousand signatures have already been collected in support of the movement.


Livermore Bomb Lab Seeks Bigger Blasts

US: The future of the infamous Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s Site 300 hangs in the balance. On the one side, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) is studying whether to terminate bomb testing activities at the contaminated Superfund site.

On the other side, the same DOE and its Livermore Lab are applying for a new permit to increase bomb blasts at Site 300 indefinitely and to further pollute the air, soil and water with up to 60 chemical and nuclear materials. Then, too, any day now, the Dept. of Homeland Security will announce whether Site 300 is on its "finalist" list to house one of the largest bio-warfare agent research facilities in the world.

Concerned residents of Tracy, Livermore and surrounding areas are coming forward to voice their concerns about increased bomb testing, the health of their families and the viability of the environment in which we all live. They are speaking as well of their hopes for a thorough cleanup at Site 300 that will restore it and make it available for civilian uses.

Last year, the DOE budget request to Congress included language that hinted toward an end to testing activities at Site 300. High level meetings conducted at DOE Headquarters confirmed this positive direction. Officials stated that testing at Site 300 was "duplicative and unnecessary" and that residential encroachment made the site less viable as a high-explosives testing range. This was said in light of the increase in population density in Livermore, Tracy, and Mountain House — and because of the 5,500 homes planned near the Site 300 fence line.

This is why the shock was so acute when the Livermore Lab announced plans to increase annual explosive tests at the site 8-fold, from 1,000 to 8,000 pounds, and its daily limit more than 3-fold, from 100 to 350 pounds. If the permit application is approved, the Lab could detonate up to 4,500 pounds of depleted uranium each year in open-air bomb tests with no control technology to reduce airborne emissions. The permit would also allow open-air testing with tritium, which is the radioactive hydrogen of the hydrogen bomb, and scores of other toxic chemicals and gases.

The bomb blasts would be detonated on flat, above ground "firing tables." Livermore Lab acknowledges that some of radioactive and toxic materials would be released into the air, soil and water in surrounding areas.

Over the years, Site 300 has become extremely contaminated, mostly due to the past bomb blasts that have been conducted there. In 1990, Site 300 was placed on the EPA's Superfund list of most contaminated sites in the country. Site 300 has a 2-mile long underground water plume polluted by depleted uranium and tritium. Other contaminant plumes include perchlorate, RDX and a toxic stew of other pollutants. The TCE plume in one area has extended past the Site 300 boundary and under Corral Hollow Road and the nearby creek.

The laboratory had originally been granted these permits. Then, the permits were revoked when a challenge revealed that the Lab's application lacked vital data about the content of the blasts. The Lab has re-applied, bringing us to "round two."


Irish Church Condemns Airport’s Military Use

Dublin: The Archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, has accused the Irish government of "moral compromise" in allowing hundreds of thousands of US troops to use Shannon airport while on transit flights to Iraq.

CADU reported that Shannon was being used to ship DU munitions in 2006 after allegations that the US flights breached Ireland’s neutral status.

The comments by the archbishop, the most senior Church of Ireland cleric in the republic, follow debates during the election over the use of the Limerick airport.

The issue was a key negotiating demand of the Green party in coalition negotiations with Fianna Fáil over forming a new government last month. But the party failed to get the US troop flights banned.

Archbishop Neill told Dublin's Hot Press magazine: "I feel very strongly that economic links to America have made us very blind to the moral issues ... I think as a nation there has not been sufficient questioning of these [alleged CIA] rendition flights and the link of Ireland with the war in Iraq."

The Fianna Fáil-led government in Dublin has shown nervousness about Shannon, summoning the US ambassador when airport cleaners found a manacled US prisoner - a soldier on disciplinary charges - aboard a hired troop transporter. US authorities had failed to notify the Irish government of his presence.

Campaign News

It has been another busy few months for CADU, with our responsibilities with the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) taking centre stage. As you will have seen on page two, the Human Cost of Uranium Weapons exhibition was a great success, largely as a result of the incredibly powerful images captured by Japanese photographer Naomi Toyoda. However, none of it would have been possible without the incredible support of the Green MEPs of the European Free Alliance and the Belgian Coalition ‘Ban Uranium Weapons’ to whom we are extremely grateful.

The exhibition was coupled with a day of talks with speakers from around the world, including our good friends Drs Al-Ali from Basra and Fasy from New York. EUROMIL - the European military ‘super union’ - were also present and most welcome. They have recently issued a new position statement on DU that backs ICBUW’s call for a ban which is available from:

Their support sends a powerful message to politicians that we are working with the military on this issue, something that the landmine and cluster munition campaigns found invaluable.

Following the exhibition, CADU members Rae Street and Pat Sanchez went straight from Brussels to Geneva for two days of intense lobbying with national delegations at the Committee on Disarmament. As ever, there seems to be some disparity between the interests of state representatives and those of their states. While we have managed to amass the support of several nations, we are still searching for the all important sponsor state that is willing to invest time in inter-governmental lobbying on ICBUW’s behalf. Until we reach that point lobbying will continue to be an uphill battle.

One of the key lessons the last few months has shown us is the need for greater financial resources. The ICBUW Steering Group members who visited Brussels and Geneva did so at their own expense. But lobbying at this level cannot be done on the cheap, and a permenant office in a disarmament power centre such as Geneva would make life a great deal easier.

Unfortunately there is no easy solution and it will no doubt remain an issue for some time.

In an effort to boost CADU’s coffers, I am working with Greater Manchester CND on their property lock-up scheme at three festivals this summer. The money will be a welcome addition but it is still a relatively modest contribution to our running costs.

Future Events

This October, ICBUW will be heading to New York where we will hold a two-day event at the UN Church Centre, just opposite the United Nations. The meeting will coincide with the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, and should we have a state sponsor by then, we will seek to introduce our Draft Resolution asking for a re-assessment of DU and its hazards, as a first step towards a DU Treaty.

We will soon confirm what we hope to be a fantastic list of speakers and experts at the New York event. We already have support from Dr Rosalie Bertell, Congressman Jim McDermott, Diane Stearns and many others. Further details will be posted on the CADU and ICBUW websites as soon as we have them.

Looking even further ahead, we have a very special event planned for the ICBUW International Day of Action that we will need your help for, so please put the 6th November in your diaries and keep it free! More information will follow soon but we are hoping for a truly global event.

Doug Weir
Development Worker

A Word From our Coordinator

Dear Friends,

Firstly, I want to thank all our supporters. It is mainly because of you we have been able to build such a strong campaign against DU weapons in the few years CADU has existed.

However, we certainly cannot relax, as it is still the case that DU weapons are being manufactured and traded. Meanwhile the suffering continues, as can be seen clearly in the brief accounts of the exhibition ‘The Human Cost of Uranium Weapons’.

From 2003, when the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) was established, the campaign has gone from strength to strength. Notable milestones include the European Parliament passing three resolutions for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons, most recently calling for a ban. Early in 2007, the Belgian Parliament voted unanimously for the passage of legislation banning DU weapons .We plan to carry the work forward to achieve a UN treaty banning the weapons outright

From the above, it will be seen that we do need a central office and a paid worker to coordinate the work. ICBUW now shares a very small office space, in Manchester, with CADU and CND.

At the moment we are fortunate to have in post Doug Weir, a scientist by background who is also a trained journalist. His input into the work in the last few years has been invaluable.

Unfortunately, at this moment we only have enough money for a few more months to employ a worker for one day a week. We would like to make this a guaranteed income and a safer post for the worker. We can only contrast the minute sums of money involved with the high salaries, for example, earned by managers in the arms industries

It would be of great help if you could donate a regular sum each month, £4 would help: £8 would cheer us all as 10 donors would contribute to a day’s salary a week and overheads.

To contribute please complete the standing order form overleaf. If you have any queries, do get in touch.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

/ours very sincerely,

Rae Street CADU and the ICBUW Steering Group



Subscribe to CADU News - by affiliating to CADU
Affiliation rates (including a paper copy of CADU News four times a year) are £8 per year (unwaged/student) £10 per year (waged) and £30 (groups), but please consider donating more than this if possible.
Please send a cheque or a request for a standing order to:
CADU, Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick St, Manchester M4 7HR