By John LaForge
The Biden administration will send depleted uranium (or DU) munitions to Ukraine, even though the weapons are radioactive and their use causes contamination hazardous to health and the environment. The armor-piercing munitions made of waste uranium-238 are part of a new military supply donation for Ukraine, according to Reuters, and the DU will be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Uranium is extremely hard, a toxic heavy metal almost twice as dense as lead. It becomes “depleted” uranium or “DU” after most of the uranium-235 is separated for use in making nuclear reactor fuel and cores for nuclear weapons.
The U.S. military began testing DU about 40 years ago, and used it as a weapon on a mass scale for the first time in the 1991 bombardment and occupation of Iraq. As late as July 7, 2023 the Pentagon’s website says “DU has fewer risks than natural uranium because it is less radioactive.”
This disinformation appears on the same website (The Pentagon’s “Health Readiness & Combat Support” site) where the military admits that DU munitions and tank armor are contaminated with radioactive and hazardous metals besides uranium, including plutonium, americium, neptunium and technetium. The website notes that even after claiming to have studied the inclusion of the highly radioactive waste materials in the DU munitions, the military doesn’t know how much of today’s DU weapons (30-millimeter shells, 120-mm shells, and tank armor) is spiked with plutonium, etc. Back in the year 2000, when plutonium was first found to have contaminated the Balkans following the U.S./NATO bombings of 1994, 1995, and 1999, the Pentagon said it would find out what percentage of its DU munitions is contaminated with plutonium — a substance called the most toxic known to science.
The above “Health Readiness & Combat Support” website includes official material about DU. It says in part: “The Department of Defense (DoD) began testing depleted uranium (DU) about 40 years ago, and first used it in a military operation in 1991. It has fewer risks than natural uranium because it is less radioactive. DoD and many other organizations have studied, and continue to study, the health, chemical, radiological and environmental effects and exposures of DU.”
Sydney Young reported in Harvard International Review Sept. 22, 2021, that DU “may pose a risk to both soldiers and local civilian populations. When ammunition made from depleted uranium strikes a target, the uranium turns into dust that is inhaled by soldiers near the explosion site. The wind then carries dust to surrounding areas, polluting local water and agriculture.”
“Researcher Al-Azzawi cites studies,” Young reported, “showing that children’s leukemia cases increased by 60 percent between 1990 and 1997 and that birth defects tripled between 1990 and 1998 in Basra, Iraq. Basra experienced massive U.S. bombardment in response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Al-Azzawi suggests that depleted uranium used during such conflicts is responsible for the rise in cancer and birth defects in the area.”