The Coastal Post - May 1999

NATO Using Depleted Uranium Bullets And Bombs In Yugoslavia

Submitted By Assistant Prof. Dr. Radoje Lausevic
Serbian Ecological Society
University Belgrade

The public at large, both in UK and in Yugoslavia, are unaware that 30 mm bullets being fired by A-10 anti-tank aircraft and probably all Tomahawk Cruise missiles in this action contain depleted uranium (DU).

The development of these radioactive weapons is based on the fact that uranium (atomic mass 238) is much denser than lead (atomic mass 207), and therefore its kinetic energy is sufficient to penetrate tank armor or concrete buildings more effectively than lead, prior to detonation.

The design of the bullet is to incorporate a long thin cylinder of DU housed in a plastic sheath or "sabot". This means in turn that the very small leading edge of the bullet pierces with maximum impact. The same principle is used in Tomahawk Cruise missiles, with the aim of piercing concrete obstructions rather than metal.

The bullets were used in the Gulf War , and some 1 million of them still lie in the deserts of that region where subsequently the incidence of leukemias, cancer, and birth defects have risen sharply as a consequence of the ensuing environmental radiation. The amount of DU scattered around the Gulf war zone is given as 350 tons, but including the nose cones of Cruise missiles and helicopter rotors, the figure is nearer 750 tons. This is 27 TBequerels of radioactivity, one fiftieth of the total alpha releases from Sellafield over its entire operating history. The same is happening in Bosnia where DU was also employed. Some 80,000 US Gulf War veterans now suffer from the so-called Gulf War syndrome, whose symptoms are identical to radiation sickness. The US military are well aware of this and are on record as confirming 2.5mGy/hr at the surface of a DU shell, a dose equivalent to a chest X-ray per hour. Each A-10 Thunderbolt 30mm cannon anti tank shell contains some 275g (10.1 Bq). A single 120mm Abrams tank DU shell contains 3kg of U-238 (111 MBq) of activity.

When DU bombs detonate, uranium oxide is formed in particulates of between 0.5 and 5 microns. These can be windborne several hundred miles or suspended electrostatically in the atmosphere. The half life of Uranium is 109 (ten to the ninth) years, so they do not decay. One "hot particle" of this DU material in the lungs is equivalent to a chest X-ray per hour for life. It is impossible to remove, so the donated lung gradually irradiates the victim until death ensues. In the use of DU both ground-based combatants and their targets are almost certain to suffer long term radiation sickness and premature death. The Pentagon view is that the short term effectiveness outweighs the long term situation, but this is in error.

The public at large are unaware that these weapons are weapons of mass destruction and have been requested to be placed, like cluster bombs, on the Geneva Convention banned list. It is said that the unprecedented use of Cruise missiles with DU inserts in Yugoslavia will have the same effect as the Chernobyl and Mile Island disaster. Again these calculations by eminent radiation physicists are not being released to the media. In other words the action of NATO not only In this respect but also, since they have no UN mandate, are illegal, and likely to have a long term pernicious effect not only on that part of Europe, but on their own ground troops if deployed, and almost certainly on the refugees from the Kosovo region. This may be partly why NATO is reluctant to engage ground troops: You will see they are beginning already to wear submicron gas masks on the CNN and other news program pictures. The Yugoslav population however, together with aid workers and ethnic Albanians are largely unprotected.

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