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Current Issues - Depleted Uranium Weapons

(last updated 18 May 2003)

DU Weapons Tests and Incidents -> extra page


Bill introduced in U.S. House to study DU weapons' health and environmental effects and to require cleanup of DU-contaminated sites in the U.S.

On March 27, 2003, Rep Jim McDermott introduced bill H.R.1483
"Depleted Uranium Munitions Study Act of 2003
To require certain studies regarding the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium munitions, to require the cleanup and mitigation of depleted uranium contamination at sites of depleted uranium munition use and production in the United States, and for other purposes.


The purposes of this Act are--
(1) to provide for studies of--
(A) the health effects resulting from exposure to depleted uranium munitions by inhalation, ingestion, or injection; and
(B) environmental contamination caused by depleted uranium at sites where depleted uranium was used in conflict, development, testing, or training and at sites where depleted uranium and depleted uranium munitions were produced; and
(2) to require the cleanup and mitigation of depleted uranium contamination at sites of depleted uranium munition use and production in the United States. [...]"

> View McDermott's news release (March 27, 2003)

U.S. DOD Briefing on Depleted Uranium Weapons: No Health Risk

> View Transcript of March 14, 2003, Briefing

New Report by Dan Fahey analyzes "Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons"

"At one extreme in the DU debate, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has overstated the importance of DU munitions and understated their adverse effects. [...] At the other extreme of the debate, some anti-DU activists, the governments of Iraq and the former-Yugoslavia, Yasser Arafat, and Taliban sympathizers have worked jointly and independently to promote an apocalyptic vision of DU’s effects."

SCIENCE OR SCIENCE FICTION? Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons, by Dan Fahey, March 12, 2003
> Download full report (261k PDF, posted with permission)

European Parliament debate and resolution on unexploded ordnance and depleted uranium ammunition

> Download transcript of European Parliament debate Feb. 12, 2002 (Verbatim Report and translations)

> View European Parliament resolution on the harmful effects of unexploded ordnance (landmines and cluster submunitions) and depleted uranium ammunition (adopted Feb. 13, 2002 - provisional edition)

"The European Parliament, [...]
7. Asks the Commission, in the light of the results of these scientific investigations on the use of DU ammunition, to monitor developments in relation to the possible serious, widespread contamination of the environment, as well as any acute or appreciable long-term hazard to human health, and to keep it regularly informed; [...]
11. Calls on the Council to support independent and thorough investigations into the possible harmful effects of the use of depleted uranium ammunition (and other types of uranium warheads) in military operations in areas such as the Balkans, Afghanistan and other regions; stresses that such investigations should include consideration of the effects on military personnel serving in affected areas and the effects on civilians and their land; calls for the results of these investigations to be presented to Parliament;
12. Requests the Member States - in order to play their leadership role in full - to immediately implement a moratorium on the further use of cluster ammunition and depleted uranium ammunition (and other uranium warheads), pending the conclusions of a comprehensive study of the requirements of international humanitarian law; [...]"

Starmet CMI Inc. Barnwell facility (South Carolina)

Starmet CMI Inc. appeals shutdown order

Starmet CMI Inc. has appealed a decision by the Department of Health and Environmental Control's board that shutdown the plant. Starmet has asked the court in a petition to reverse the board's decision and reinstate an administrative law judge's ruling that allowed the plant to continue to operate. (The State Sep. 25, 2002)

S.C. judge overturns order closing plant

On July 1, 2002, a judge overturned the state health department's order that closed a Barnwell County manufacturing plant over a potential uranium leak.
Administrative Law Judge Marvin Kittrell ruled that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control did not have jurisdiction to force Starmet CMI Inc. to close last week.
Kittrell delayed his order until the agency has a chance to ask him for a temporary injunction to keep Starmet closed. (Charlotte Observer July 2, 2002)
On July 19, 2002, administrative law judge Marvin Kittrell rescinded the emergency shutdown order issued by the state's health and environmental agency. He ruled that the department did not successfully justify the emergency order. (Augusta Chronicle July 20, 2002)

State orders emergency shutdown of Starmet uranium processing facility

On June 25, 2002, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control closed down the Barnwell County company Starmet CMI Inc. , evicting most of the 75 employees and installing armed guards.
In an emergency order, the state contends the company has, in the past two years:
  • Repeatedly violated state environmental laws and regulations.
  • Improperly stored almost 8,000 metric tons of low-level radioactive waste on site. Some drums leaked waste; some others were left sitting open, the state found.
  • Contaminated the soil, air and groundwater with radioactive and hazardous waste.
The state also contends the company didn't provide enough security for the site, where a component used in military airplane wings and classified products are made. Until recent years, Starmet made tank penetrators, said the company's attorney, Bill Short of Columbia.
The state contends in its order that Starmet, which has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code, doesn't have the assets to adequately address the problems. Its sister company, Starmet NMI Inc. in Concord, Mass., is now a Superfund site, meaning the government has placed a priority on cleaning it up. (Charlotte Observer June 27, 2002)

Nuclear Metals/Starmet Concord Superfund site (Massachusetts)

EPA to begin temporary cleanup at Superfund site in Concord

Federal environmental officials are beginning a $500,000 ''temporary cleanup'' of a Concord Superfund site.
The Environmental Protection Agency will install a permanent fence around the ''old landfill'' portion of the 46-acre Starmet Corp. site, install temporary covers over the old landfill and a holding basin, and provide security if needed.
According to the EPA, the holding basin and groundwater at the site have been contaminated with depleted uranium, volatile organic compounds and other toxic metals, including beryllium. (AP Apr. 29, 2002)

State sues Starmet over DU waste (Massachusetts)

3,800 barrels containing about 1800 metric tonnes of of depleted uranium and its byproducts are stuck in Concord, Mass., because the company that produced the waste is nearly bankrupt. The state attorney general's office filed a lawsuit to force Starmet Corp. to dispose of the waste. Starmet used the metal to make tank-piercing weapons until 1999. (Boston Globe Feb. 1, 2002)

Nuclear Metals, Inc. DU manufacturing site in Concord, Mass. listed Superfund

On June 14, 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added 10 new hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List (NPL), including the Nuclear Metals, Inc. site in Concord, Mass.
Nuclear Metals, Inc. produced depleted uranium products, primarily as penetrators for armor piercing ammunition. They also manufactured metal powders for medical applications, photocopiers, and speciality metal products, such as beryllium tubing used in the aerospace industry.
EPA Superfund Sites · Nuclear Metals, Inc. Concord, Mass. Site Narrative
EPA New England NMI Fact Sheet
Federal Register Notice June 14, 2001
Support Document for the Revised National Priorities List Final Rule - June 2001 (630k PDF)

UK Ministry of Defense proposes research programme on DU

MoD press release 15 March 2002

Proposal for a Research Programme on Depleted Uranium (11 March 2002): HTML version · PDF version (555k)

Chromosome aberrations found in Gulf and Balkans Wars' veterans

Gulf veteran babies 'risk deformities'

Children of British soldiers who fought in wars in which depleted uranium ammunition was used are at greater risk of suffering genetic diseases passed on by their fathers, new research reveals.
Veterans of the conflicts in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo have been found to have up to 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities in their genes. That has raised fears they will pass cancers and genetic illnesses to their offspring. The study is the first to analyse chromosome deformation in soldiers.
'High levels of genetic damage do not occur naturally. It increases the probability of cancer, deformed babies and other genetic conditions significantly,' said Professor Albrecht Schott, a German biochemist who co-ordinated the research.
Schott collected blood samples from 16 British veterans last year. Fourteen had fought in the Gulf war, one of whom also served in Bosnia. Of the others, one served only in Kosovo and one only in Bosnia. Two of the veterans are women. The former soldiers have between double and 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities. The average was five-and-a-half times higher than found in civilians. None had less than double the normal rate.
A spokesman for the MoD dismissed Schott's findings. 'We consider the tests neither well thought out nor scientifically sound,' he said.
Last month the MoD said it was launching an investigation after a study revealed 19 Gulf veterans had developed lymphatic or bone marrow cancers compared with 11 in a control group. (The Observer August 11, 2002)

Eight British veterans of the conflicts in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo have high levels of deformed chromosomes, increasing the risks of cancers and abnormalities in their children. Six of the men saw action in the Gulf, and one of this six also served in Bosnia. Of the remaining two, one served only in Kosovo and one only in Bosnia.
Initial results of the study, investigating chromosome deformation in white blood cells of the soldiers, reveals genetic damage in the group at least 10 times greater than that found in the general population.
Professor Albrecht Schott, a retired chemist who worked at the Free University of Berlin until recently, is co-ordinating the research. His results will be published early in 2002. (The Express (UK) December 24, 2001)

The results of the study were published in March 2003:

Chromosome aberration analysis in peripheral lymphocytes of Gulf war and Balkans war veterans, by H. Schröder, A. Heimers, R. Frentzel-Beyme, A. Schott and W. Hoffmann, in: Radiation Protection Dosimetry vol. 103 no. 3, pp 211-220 (2003).
> View abstract

UNEP Opens Post-Conflict Assessment Unit

The new Unit will have a similar but broader mandate than that of the UNEP Balkans Unit, which it replaces, and will be available to conduct assessments in any of the world's many post-conflict zones. Its 11-member team will be based with other UNEP offices at the International Environment House in Châtelaine (Geneva).

UNEP Post-Conflict Assessment Unit

Los Alamos Lab Reports DU Levels Higher Since Fire (New Mexico)

The Cerro Grande Fire, combined with repeated freezing and thawing over the winter, put more depleted uranium in the air around Los Alamos, according to a lab scientist, but those levels are generally minuscule and expected to fall.
Craig Eberhart, leader of the lab's environmental air monitoring program, presented the information at a regular meeting of the Community Radiation Monitoring Group in Santa Fe. According to Eberhart's research, the lab picked up depleted uranium above background levels of natural uranium at 13 of its 55 air monitoring stations in the first quarter of 2001. Most of those were on lab property. A few were in White Rock and Los Alamos. In the second quarter, five stations picked up such amounts. That compares to just two stations reporting depleted uranium levels above background in the last two quarters of 2000.
Still, the pollution detected at the stations was very small — far below any government safety limit — and Eberhart said there's nothing dangerous about the air pollution. "We do have a small, but detectable impact on the public," he said. (Albuquerque Journal, November 29, 2001)

Bill requiring suspension of depleted uranium munitions introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

"To require the suspension of the use, sale, development, production, testing, and export of depleted uranium munitions pending the outcome of certain studies of the health effects of such munitions, and for other purposes."
> H.R. 3155 (introduced in House October 17, 2001)

U.S. NRC fines uranium company for discrimination

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has proposed a $17,600 fine against RMI Environmental Services (now Earthline Technologies), for apparently violating NRC requirements protecting employees from discrimination.
From 1962 until 1988, the company fabricated uranium metal products for the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and other commercial clients. The facility is now being decontaminated and decommissioned.
An NRC investigation found that an RMI radiation protection technician was placed on involuntary leave after he raised safety concerns about the handling of a radioactively contaminated pipe and other radiation protection issues. The NRC cited RMI for discriminating against the employee who had raised safety concerns and proposed the $17,600 fine. (ENS Sep 27, 2001)

Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty - $17,600, EA-99-290/EA-01-037, September 24, 2001

Groundwater contamination likely at SICN Annecy DU manufacturing site (France)

The facility of Société Industrielle de Combustible Nucléaire (SICN) at Annecy (Haute-Savoie, France) is specialized in uranium metallurgy and manufacturing. It has manufactured, among others, depleted uranium penetrators for Leclerc tanks (120 mm) and MX30 tanks (105 mm). SICN is 100% owned by COGEMA .
Monitoring data gathered by SICN in 2000 has been released by the Direction Régionale de l'Industrie, de la Recherche et de l'Environnement (DRIRE) to the radiation monitoring group CRIIRAD . The groundwater data shows elevated concentrations of uranium of 55 and 46.5 micrograms per litre.

> View CRII Rad report (Sep 2001, in French)

European Parliament releases DU study

Depleted Uranium: Environmental and Health Effects in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, European Parliament, Directorate-General for Research, Working Paper, Scientific and Technological Options Assessment Series, STOA 100 EN, May 2001, 53 p.
> Download full text (497k PDF)

UK Royal Society releases DU report

"The approach taken in the report is to estimate the typical levels of exposure on the battlefield over a wide range of scenarios, and the ‘worst-case’ exposures that individuals are unlikely to exceed. From these are calculated the potential health risks from radiation. The report also considers epidemiological studies of occupational exposures to uranium in other situations as an independent source of information on the risks of inhaling DU particles, although it recognises that the parallels may not be precise. A later report will consider the toxicological risks and environmental impacts."
"In conclusion, the report indicates that the radiological risks from the use of DU in munitions are for the most part low, but that for small numbers of soldiers there might be circumstances in which risks are higher, and it is for this reason that further work should be undertaken to clarify their extent."

A further report (Part II) was published on March 11, 2002. It addresses the risks from toxicological and environmental issues, including the risks to civilian population.

The health hazards of depleted uranium munitions, Part I/II, The Royal Society, London, May 2001 / March 2002

Health Council of the Netherlands releases DU report

Gezondheidsrisico’s van blootstelling aan verarmd uranium, Een overzicht. Advies van een commissie van de Gezondheidsraad, Nr 2001/13, Den Haag, 16 mei 2001 (Health risks of exposure to depleted uranium. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 16 May 2001; publication no. 2001/13)
> Download full report (474k PDF - Dutch with English Summary)
> View press release 16 May 2001

WHO releases report on Depleted Uranium

"The World Health Organization (WHO) today published Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects, a monograph containing a number of recommendations regarding depleted uranium (DU) and human health. The monograph is the product of a review of the best available scientific literature on uranium and depleted uranium. It provides a framework for identifying the likely consequences of public and occupational exposure to DU."
> View WHO News Release April 26, 2001
> Download WHO Report Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects

UK Ministry of Defense screening programme for DU health effects

UK Ministry of Defense appoints Advisory Panel for screening programme for DU health effects

A panel of scientific experts and veterans' representatives has been appointed to oversee the MOD's depleted uranium screening programme. Its first meeting was on 27 September 2001.
The Oversight Board has been appointed by Veterans' Minister Dr Lewis Moonie to advise on the development of a scientifically valid test for exposure to depleted uranium and a case control study.
> View MOD release Sep 26, 2001


UK Ministry of Defense seeks comment on screening programme for DU health effects

SRP Consultative document page

UK Ministry of Defence, The Second Consultative Document on the Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme for Depleted Uranium, An invitation to comment on MOD proposal, London, 11 April 2001.
Nominations for membership of the Oversight Board are required by 1 June 2001.
The consultation period ends on 4 July 2001.
Download document (PDF 150kB)

UK Ministry of Defence, Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme Following Health Concerns in Respect of Depleted Uranium, A summary of responses received by MOD resulting from the MOD Consultation Document "An invitation to professional and official bodies to comment on technical issues", London, 11 April 2001
Download document (PDF 120kB)

Consultative document: Ministry of Defence - Introduction of a Voluntary Screening Programme Following Health Concerns in Respect of Depleted Uranium - An invitation to professional and official bodies to comment on technical issues - 12 February 2001 (Comments were due March 9, 2001.)
> Download Consultative document: Microsoft Word format 420kB · PDF format 380kB

> See also: UK Ministry of Defence seeks comment on proposed protocols for DU survey in Kosovo

International Committee of Red Cross does not support call for ban of DU weapons

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not support a call for the ban of depleted uranium weapons, since it had no evidence of the alleged high damages. (Sonntagszeitung, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2001)
> see also Depleted Uranium Munitions - Comments of the International Committee of the Red Cross (March 26, 2001)

Council of Europe calls for ban on DU weapons

Assembly calls for ban on weapons containing uranium and plutonium (Press release Jan. 24, 2001)

European Parliament demands moratorium for depleted uranium weapons

January 17, 2001: "The resolution, that was adopted by 394 votes to 60 with 106 abstentions, calls on Member States that are also NATO members to propose a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons in accordance with the precautionary principle. Parliament is urging Council and Member States to foster a clear and transparent debate on this matter, to set up an independent European medical working party and to give priority to all measures necessary to protect public health and the environment. The long term effects on the sites which were bombed, and on the civilian population, should also be evaluated. Council and Commission are urged to coordinate the findings of the enquiries conducted by Member States and the various international specialised agencies. The resolution also calls for priority to be given in aid programmes for the Balkans to provide assistance to civilian victims and to protect the environment." (European Parliament Press Services )

U.S. NRC denies petition against use of depleted uranium munitions

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied a petition dated June 1, 2000, filed by Doug Rokke, Ph.D. The petition concerns the use of depleted uranium (DU) by the U.S. Department of Defense and all services. The petition requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hold a hearing to consider ''the revocation of the master DU license for the U.S. Department of Defense and all services, implementation of substantial fines and consideration of personal criminal liability.'' As the basis for this request, the petitioner stated that ''the continuing deliberate use of DU munitions during battle and during peacetime is resulting in serious health and environmental consequences.''
> view Director's Decision DD-01-01 (Jan. 9, 2001)
> see also: Notice in Federal Register, January 16, 2001 (Vol. 66, No. 10) p. 3621

Britain's navy to phase out depleted uranium weapons

Britain's Royal Navy is to phase out depleted uranium ammunition after the US manufacturers ceased producing the shells. The programme of moving to tungsten–tipped ammunition is believed to have already begun. The Royal Navy has been using the American–designed Phalanx anti–missile system, which the US navy has moved away from over the past decade. (The Independent, Jan. 13, 2001)

Greens in German Parliament start initiative for ban of DU weapons

Announcement (May 17, 2000) (in German) · use Babelfish for translation to English

Finding of No Significant Impact for DU ammunition use in M1 Abram tanks

Federal Register, July 14, 1998 (Vol. 63, No. 134), Notices, Page 37858-37859 (Download full notice ):

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Department of the Army:
Proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System

"SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 and Army Regulation (AR) 200-2, the proposed FONSI for the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank Heavy Armor System is being published for comment.
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Ground Combat & Support Systems (PEO-GCSS) has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment for the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) Heavy Armor System. The current use of the depleted uranium (DU) armor package on the Abrams MBT has been re-evaluated to determine whether the environmental impacts of its continued use remain insignificant, taking into consideration the current use of the tank and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) reduction in allowable radiation exposure from 500 mrem/year to 100 mrem/year for tank and maintenance crews (individual members of the public).
As in already-fielded weapon system, M1 MBTs have been in production and in the field since the early 1980s. During that time, many technical, environmental and health assessments have been completed. These documents have addressed and minimized environmental impacts. As part of the continuing analysis effort, this EA focuses specifically on the assembly, use, repair and disposal of the heavy armor package.
DATES: Comments must be received not later than August 28, 1998."

UN Subcommission condemns DU weapons

The UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities passed a resolution condemning the use of Depleted Uranium and certain other weapons during its 48th session in August 1996:
"On matters concerning international peace and security, the Subcommission:
  • Affirmed that weapons of mass destruction and, in particular, nuclear weapons should have no role to play in international relations and thus should be eliminated;
  • Further reaffirmed its support for a total ban on the production, marketing and use of such weapons; urged States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on Conventional Weapons and Protocols thereto;
  • Urged all States to be guided in their national policies by the need to curb production and spread of weapons of mass destruction or with indiscriminate effect, in particular nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, fuel-air bombs, napalm, cluster bombs, biological weaponry and weaponry containing depleted uranium;
  • Requested the Secretary-General to collect information from governments and other relevant sources on the use of such weapons and on their consequential and cumulative effects, and to submit a report on the matter to the Subcommission at its forty-ninth session."


compiled by:
WISE Uranium Project (home)


General Gulf Wars (1991, 2003) -> extra page

Balkans Wars (1994/95, 1999) -> extra page

Afghanistan (2001/2002) -> extra page



For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.