Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons fired by U.S. Navy on Washington coast

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

JANUARY 7, 2003--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DEPLETED URANIUM BULLETS, MADE FROM RADIOACTIVE WASTE MATERIAL, WERE FIRED IN EXERCISES OFF THE COAST OF WASHINGTON STATE ACCORDING TO RECENTLY RELEASED U.S. NAVY DOCUMENTS. THE U.S. NAVY MEMO WAS ISSUED IN JUNE 2001 AS A WARNING TO OTHER SHIPS, AND FOR SUBMARINES TO "STAY CLEAR".

A COALITION OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND PEACE ORGANIZATIONS ARE CONSIDERING FILING FOR AN IMMEDIATE COURT INJUNCTION AGAINST FURTHER USE OF DEPLETED URANIUM ROUNDS BY THE U.S. NAVY.


Depleted uranium (DU/U-238) is a highly toxic material. It is about half as radioactive as natural uranium (U235) and twice as heavy as lead. Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. It is known to have been first used by U.S. Army tanks and Air Force jets during the 1991 war against Iraq with devastating effects on the environment in the region.

In 1995, the Army Environmental Policy Institute concluded, "If depleted uranium enters the body, it has a potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with depleted uranium are both chemical and radiological."

" How can the Navy fire depleted uranium rounds and spread radioactive material into prime fishing areas off our coast?" said Dave Mann, Seattle environmental attorney. "The Navy is willing to put us all at risk, including its own sailors, to improve its warfighting capabilities", said Glen Milner, of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, who received the information through the Freedom of Information Act.

The U.S. Navy memo was released through the Freedom of Information Act in December 2002 to Glen Milner of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. The memo states in June 2001, the USS Fife, a U.S. Navy destroyer stationed at the U.S. Naval base at Everett, was "CONDUCTING GUNNERY OPERATIONS CONSISTING OF 5" 54 LWGM/BLP AND CIWS/DEPLETED URANIUM ROUNDS IN AREAS W237C AND W237F... (ALL TIMES JUN 01)"

Areas W237C and W237F are warning areas west of the Washington Coast between Neah Bay and Ocean Shores. This area is prime fish habitat for a number of endangered species.

The CIWS designation is for "Close In Weapons System", also known as the Phalanx system. This weapons system is complete with radar and rapid-fire 20 mm guns. The guns are capable of firing up to 3,000 or 4,500 rounds per minute.

Fact Sheet

Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons fired by U.S. Navy on Washington coast

Depleted uranium is a waste product of the process used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power plants and weapons production. When a DU-coated projectile impacts a solid surface, the pyrophoric properties of this heavy metal ignite, producing intense heat, resulting in an aerosolized radioactive release as the projectile quickly burns through the armor. The residue of this firestorm is an extremely fine ceramic uranium dust that can be spread by the wind, inhaled and absorbed into the human body, and absorbed by plants and animals, becoming part of the food chain.

The W237C and W237F are Navy Warning Areas and are approximately 25 to 100 miles off the Washington coast between Ocean Shores and Ozette (south of Neah Bay). The areas are used routinely for joint air/surface operations such as missile firings, air-to-surface bombing, air-to-air firing and combat tactics. The W237 areas are also a designated anti-submarine-warfare (ASW) range for ASW operations, sonobouys, practice depth charges and smoke markers.

The Navy Warning Areas are also approximately 50 miles off Vancouver Island. The use of DU weapons brings into question whether the U.S. Navy is firing DU rounds in other areas, such as the Nanoose range in Canadian waters.

The firing of depleted uranium rounds from the USS Fife also creates a hazard for Navy personnel aboard the destroyer. The ship itself becomes a radiological hazard.

Citizens of the City of Everett should be concerned over the storage and handling of depleted uranium weapons within city boundaries. Can the Navy be trusted to transport and handle this type of weapon properly?

According to Sea Waves Magazine, the USS Fife made a port visit in San Francisco on August 3, 2001. Usually such a port call will involve public tours of the ship such as at our own Seattle Seafair. It is unknown at this time whether the USS Fife allowed citizens on what would have been a contaminated ship.


The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is one of five peace and environmental organizations involved in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for violations of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA regarding the Trident D-5 nuclear missile upgrade at the Bangor submarine base. A 60 Day Notice was filed in March 2001. A decision by Judge Franklin Burgess in Tacoma in October 2002 is under appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs seek an injunction against the new Trident D-5 missile deployment.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
16159 Clear Creek Road NW Poulsbo, WA 98370
Website: www.gzcenter.org E-mail: info@gzcenter.org
Contact: David Mann (Gendler and Mann, LLP) (206) 621-8868
Greg Wingard (Waste Action Project) (206) 261-2670
Glen Milner (Ground Zero Center) (206) 365-7865



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