16 Jul

Depleted Uranium = Another Agent Orange, But Far Worse

Gold News 2011: Depleted Uranium Mass Destruction Weapons


Depleted Uranium is being used in Libya?


Processing of Depleted Uranium

Picture from Depleted Uranium: Ethics Of The Silver Bullet 


Fears of depleted uranium use in Libya

Article printed from San Francisco Bay View:

by Peter Custers

A depiciton of the Iraq war, where depleted uranium caused devastation amongst the population. Its use in Libya is speculative – Photo: Dan Chung

The pattern of deception to gain legitimacy for war in the eyes of the public is by now familiar. In the middle of March, Western powers led by the U.S., Britain and France initiated actions of war against Muammar Qaddafi’s government of Libya. The start of the war was preceded by a publicity offensive in which the Libyan leader was depicted as a madman.

The war was defended on the grounds that the Libyan people needed to be protected against their dictator via a “no-fly” zone and the public were made to believe the West exclusively aimed at defending the humanitarian interests of Libya’s population. Now, concerns among the Western public over Libyan events have thinned. The need to camouflage war aims has concomitantly decreased.

Now it’s time to highlight some of the long-term implications of the Western intervention. A sound but difficult test case is the West’s use of depleted uranium weapons. Though U.S. and British officials have so far denied their employment over Libya to overthrow Qaddafi, speculation has been rife that ammunition used by the U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) contain “depleted” uranium. What to make of these stories?

First, the record on previous uses of so-called depleted uranium weapons is unequivocal. While the very word “depleted” or impoverished appears to indicate that arms containing this type of uranium are not very dangerous, depleted uranium well exemplifies the intractable nature of nuclear production. For the radioactivity spread by these weapons is not just long lasting, it is perennial in a literal sense. It is said to last into the future for nearly as long as planet earth exists: some 4.5 billion years.

Yet for two reasons the U.S. and European states have historically opted to build weapons with everlasting radiating effects. Depleted uranium, largely consisting in uranium-238, is a very hardy metal. Hence it can be employed to strengthen military vehicles and arms. Also, arms containing “depleted” uranium can easily pierce the armament systems of any less powerfully equipped enemy.

A10 thunderbolt, fully loaded with depleted uranium. – Photo:

Thus the Iraqi army during the second Gulf War, staged against Iraq’s occupation of oil-rich Kuwait in 1991, was taken by surprise. Suddenly U.S. tanks fired shells, later identified as depleted uranium shells, having 1,000 meter longer carrying capacity than theirs, and hitting their tanks with extraordinary speed. Again, there is ample evidence confirming that the U.S. war plane known as Thunderbolt, the A-10, in the Gulf War and in the war against former Yugoslavia, staged in the late 1990s, fired similar armor-piercing shells from its cannon. A whole range of Western tanks and military planes have meanwhile been equipped with shells and bombs containing depleted uranium.

The radioactivity spread by these weapons is said to last into the future for nearly as long as planet earth exists: some 4.5 billion years.

But how damaging is the use of depleted uranium in war really? It emerged as a by-product of the process of nuclear enrichment – massive quantities of depleted uranium originally needed to be put aside as waste. Their new destination therefore might appear an appropriate answer to the generation of waste. Yet the deleterious impact of materials containing a relatively “low” dose of radioactivity, as uranium-238 does, have been exposed for decades, well before they started being channelized towards Western weaponry.

The best documented has been the consequences for Iraq – where depleted uranium weapons figured in U.S. tank shells and bombs fired in the 1991 Gulf War, and also in the Occupation War – started in 2003. Two French journalistic accounts published in 2001 have given detailed descriptions of the effects suffered by Iraq’s civilian population after the Gulf War.

The extensive field investigation carried out by the priest, Jean-Marie Benjamin, revealed that there had been a 350 percent increase in the rate of malformations in Iraqi babies at birth, such as dislocations of brains outside the head and of eyes at an unusually wide distance. Again, there have been reports that the number of blood cancers, leukemia, in Iraqi children has not just increased, but multiplied.

Academic reports, for example by the conservative American Rand Corp., have similarly spoken of indiscriminate risks for the lungs and digestive systems of civilians and combatants alike. Radioactive dust may be inhaled after explosions of depleted uranium shells, or people may become radiated after contact with unexploded shells in war zones. The toxic effects from depleted uranium weapons, such as for human mutations, have been recorded too.

Third, not only has the danger of depleted uranium weapons’ use by Western powers been put on record by a variety of sources, the use has also been delegitimized – thanks notably to sustained campaigning by anti-war coalitions over the past decade. Western analysts studying the U.S. and NATO war strategies have long ago admitted that depleted uranium weapons, when spreading their radioactivity, do not differentiate between military and civilian targets.

Depleted uranium storage – Photo:

As long as such weapons are being used, damaging impacts on non-combatants, on civilian populations cannot be averted. Hence in recent years international pressure has mounted so as to force the U.S. and other Western powers which have incorporated this uranium into their armory to renege on its use.

Significantly, the General Assembly of the United Nations has thrice adopted resolutions expressing its concerns over the given weaponry. In the third resolution adopted towards the end of 2010, no fewer than 148 U.N. member states demanded from states employing depleted uranium weapons that they frankly “reveal their use” whenever asked to do so by affected countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, four U.N. members voted against: the U.S., Britain, France and Israel. The three countries now waging war against Libya, plus Israel, stood opposed to an overwhelming majority of states expressing humanity’s growing anxiety.

Since the start of the war against Qaddafi, speculation by critics on the likelihood or risk that Western powers use the discredited weaponry in Libya has primarily focused on the potential inclusion of depleted uranium in two types of weapons: as warhead or armor enhancing material in cruise missiles, or as part of the shells fired by A-10 military planes. In view of the past, inclusion in the shells fired by the A-10 Thunderbolt is more than likely.

The U.S., Britain and France, the three countries now waging war against Libya, plus Israel, stood opposed to an overwhelming majority of states expressing humanity’s growing anxiety.

Although Western officials routinely deny that they have used depleted uranium in the war on Libya, they have not excluded its possibility either. There are ample reasons to suspect that the denials are a war tactic – as was the initial denial stating that Western powers do not target bringing down Qaddafi’s government. The fear is justified that the Libyan civilian population will face long-lasting radiation effects from depleted uranium weapons used over their territory.

Dr. Peter Custers [4] is author of a theoretical study on nuclear production, “Questioning Globalized Militarism” (Tulika/Merlin Press, 2007). He can be reached at [5] and through his website, [6] [6]. This story first appeared on Inter Press Service [7].


The following is excerpted  from: 

Depleted Uranium:
Ethics Of The Silver Bullet 

ILIYA PESIC / Class Paper ENGR 019 
Technological Ethics 
Professor: Dr. Neil R. Quinn Jr.
Santa Clara University
(undated) 9may2005

What are the consequences of DU ammunition? Even though there are very few government reports that suggest that DU contains harmful side effects, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that clearly points out that DU and DU ammo causes extensive radiological, environmental, chemical, and biological effects. DU ammo can easily be shown to cause severe environmental damage. For example, numerous anti-tank rounds were fired in Ethan Allen Firing Range (a US based testing site for DU weapons). The soil surrounding the site was so contaminated with radiation and toxin from DU that 4 inches of topsoil, over a few mile radius, was scooped up and later stored away as nuclear waste. 14e DU dust results from the use of DU ammo (which forms as it pierces the armor) and can easily spread far away from the target. There was one tested case in the Gulf War where DU dust spread up to 42 km from an enemy target site pulverized with DU rounds!14e Just recently, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) stated that they still found traces of DU dust in the air two years after the end of the bombing of Kosovo.18 Remember that DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years. That means that local environments contaminated with poisonous DU dust will remain that way for a very long time and will continue to spread.

“There has been, and continues to be, a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. If no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefields, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and be deleted from the arsenal.” – Colonel Ziehman of Los Alamos National Laboratory. 11

The military has known for decades that after a DU round hits its target, up to 70% of the penetrator is burned and forms particles 0.1 micron or smaller in what is referred to as spalling [a shotgun effect]. The spalling is uranium fragments. Some of it catches fire. Temperatures within the tank approach that of the sun! (from a telephone conversation with Doug Rokke)] “And some of the stuff is just solid uranium. And what you see inside is if I took a handful of BB’s and through it across this room, extremely high velocity, everything is on fire and fragments. You have secondary detonations due to concussion and ignition beyond comprehension. And the whole thing is a catastrophic explosion.” — Doug Rokke, a Vietnam and Gulf War I Veteran and the Army’s expert on depleted uranium. For more on this subject, see: Particles in the 0.1 micron range will penetrate even a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Airfilter)

DU ammo can also cause extreme biological effects to those exposed to it. DU dust commonly is inhaled and digested through simple inhalation of air and consumption of food. Insoluble and Soluble uranium oxide enters the body and eventually enters the bloodstream.2 Soluble uranium is expelled through urination, but insoluble uranium (around 50% of DU) stays in the body and travels from the bloodstream and settles in bone and organ tissue.2 Veterans and civilians exposed to DU have experienced extensive irreversible damage to kidney and partial kidney failure. Cancers related to one’s blood, bone, and immune system become common.14h There are also various other biological effects claimed from DU, such as chronic fatigue, respiratory problems, heart problems, digestive organ damage (e.g. liver failure and severe rectal bleeding), etc.2

Finally DU ammo can be shown to have radiological effects. On the outside DU is quite harmless. It is a low-level alpha particle emitter. Fortunately, alpha particles can easily be stopped by a piece of paper! Hence, a soldier can be in contact with a DU-armored tank for years and not see any effects at all! [IMPORTANT – see note below this paragraph please] However, DU dust that enters the body can be quite harmful, depending on the amount of exposure. When DU enters the body, alpha particles directly bombard one’s cell tissue. On average 1 in 70,000 human cells that are bombarded from alpha particles emitted from DU turn into cancer cells.14h Hence depending on length of exposure and concentration any person exposed to large amounts of DU would most likely suffer long-term cancer-related effects. Also, remember that DU is very similar to natural uranium (around 99% similar), which is dug up as an ore using conventional mining techniques. It is well known that uranium miners suffer significantly higher levels of cancer related illnesses, respiratory, and digestives related problems from natural uranium dust and radiation.5 Hence it would make much sense that DU exhibit similar characteristics and side effects.

[ note: Gamma rays are also emitted with the alpha particles. Uranium decay products also emit both alpha and beta particles, plus gamma rays, which are not at all good to be near, to touch, or to be exposed to!]

“If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with DU in the body are both chemical and radiological. Personnel inside or near vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant internal exposures.” – Statement by US Army Environmental Policy Institute (statement made after Gulf but not before Kosovo). 11

“The ingestion of small amounts of radioactive dust …will cause a building up of radioactive material in the body, which eventually may have serious consequences…Lung cancer, bone necrosis, and rapid anaemia are possible diseases due to the deposition of radioactive substances in the cell tissue or bone structure of the body…” – Warning by the Canadian Department of Mines on uranium ore.

Also available for your reading:

Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

Genetically Modified…Basra and Falluja, Iraq

Depleted Uranium Weapons: The Dead Babies in Iraq and Afghanistan Are No Joke

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When we should be mending our world, we are destroying it. And we wonder why we are hated. We talk of terrorists; is there any other country that visits the amount of terror on the people of the world that we do?

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