Tag Archives: depleted uranium

US and Israel targeting DNA in Gaza? The DIME Bomb: Yet another genotoxic weapon

James Brooks, Media Monitors Network, December 4, 2006
“This warfare of the future is reminiscent of what Israel has been doing for years, but with one-ton bombs, 155-mm artillery shells, and tank-fired antipersonnel flechette bombs. Are FLM weapons like DIME an improvement? Or will they actually increase civilian casualties and suffering, and mimic depleted uranium weapons by inducing disease and genetic damage in their victims?”
Continue reading US and Israel targeting DNA in Gaza? The DIME Bomb: Yet another genotoxic weapon

Depleted uranium behind the surge in cancer rates in Iraq

Al Jazeera, London, November 12, 2006
Six-year-old Fatma Rakwan was diagnosed with leukemia.
Photo courtesy: Paul Kitagaki Jr.

In 1991, Washington and its Persian Gulf War allies used armor-piercing shells made of depleted uranium — the first time such weapons had been used in military conflicts — as the Iraqis retreated from Kuwait.
Up till now, the battlefield remains a radioactive toxic wasteland — and depleted uranium munitions remain a mystery despite many studies and many attempts by scientists to fully discover its secrets.
In military applications, when alloyed, Depleted Uranium [DU] is ideal for use in armor penetrators. These solid metal projectiles have the speed, mass and physical properties to perform exceptionally well against armored targets. DU provides a substantial performance advantage, well above other competing materials. This allows DU penetrators to defeat an armored target at a significantly greater distance. Also, DU’s density and physical properties make it ideal for use as armor plate. DU has been used in weapon systems for many years in both applications.
Depleted uranium results from the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Natural uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that is present in most rocks and soils as well as in many rivers and sea water.
Natural uranium consists primarily of a mixture of two isotopes (forms) of uranium, Uranium-235 (U235) and Uranium-238 (U238), in the proportion of about 0.7 and 99.3 percent, respectively. Nuclear reactors require U235 to produce energy, therefore, the natural uranium has to be enriched to obtain the isotope U235 by removing a large part of the U238.
Once DU round strikes a solid object like a tank, it bursts into a burning spray of radioactive dust, which can remain on site for years.
Many reports and political experts confirmed that the U.S. and British troops fired more than 940,000 depleted uranium projectiles during the 1991 conflict.
The Pentagon refuses to clarify the exact effects of depleted uranium, but Iraqi doctors attribute the significant increase in cancer and birth defects in the region to the U.S. and British troops’ use of DU.
Many researches conducted outside Iraq, and by several U.S. veterans organizations, suggested that depleted uranium could have played a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans.
The U.S. is believed to have used 320,000 tons of depleted uranium during the Gulf War alone. Also British Armed Forces used depleted uranium in some of its ammunition.
Depleted Uranium Baby.1.jpg
Iraqi doctors reported significant growth in cancer and birth defects during the period between 1991 and 2003; the period of the two wars the country fought and in which the U.S. and the British forces were involved.
It was during these two wars that such weapons were used; which led to the noticeable growth in cancer and birth defects in Iraq.
In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a study on depleted uranium after serious doubts emerged over its damage to health.
The study claimed that depleted uranium had very little risk of spreading.
But a scientist who had worked for the WHO at that time later stated that another study that was kept concealed from the public contradicted WHO’s claim, and that it asserts that depleted uranium can cause cancer.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Dr. Keith Baverstock, who worked on the published study, said that Depleted uranium inhalation has geno-toxic effects on DNA.
“When you breathe in the dust the deeper it goes into the lung the more difficult it is to clear. The particles that dissolve pose a risk – part radioactive – and part from the chemical toxicity in the lung – and then later as that material diffuses into the rest of the body, and into the blood stream, a potential risk at sites like the bone marrow for leukemia, the lymphatic system and the kidney,” Dr. Baverstock said, adding that this study was excluded from the report released earlier by WHO.
British and American troops in Iraq today continue using depleted uranium weapons ignoring the deadly impact it has on civilians’ lives and health.
It had also been revealed that the Israeli occupation army used uranium in the recent offensive Lebanon.
Cancer rate in Iraq has increased tenfold, and the number of birth defects has multiplied fivefold times since the 1991 war. The increase is believed to be caused by depleted uranium.
Many scientists sought to investigate these events, but Washington is blocking any attempt to inspect the aftermath of the war.
Also the U.S. refused refused to cooperate with the United Nations on the issue.

War crimes or not war crimes? On the international legal status of depleted uranium weapons

Ludwig De Braeckeleer, OhMyNews, November 2, 2006
Because of the high density of the material, depleted uranium munitions (DU) are particularly suitable to pierce armor-vehicle or bunkers. They have been used in Kuwait, Iraq, and Kosovo. There are some allegations that they may have been used in Palestine.
The analysis of samples gathered from two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri indicates that the Israeli Defense Force probably used some kind of uranium-based weapons in Lebanon last summer. Although Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the use of such weapons, the question of their legality is once more in the spotlight.
“Israel does not use any weaponry which is not authorised by International Law or International Conventions,” said Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The illegality of a weapon under International Law may result either from the existence of a treaty that specifically bans it and/or from the violation of Law, as well as Customs, of War known together as Humanitarian Law.
While the first source of illegality is rather obvious, the second one follows from the so-called “Martens Clause” to the Hague Convention of 1907.
The “Martens clause” states that, in absence of a specific treaty, all States are nevertheless bound by “the rules of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.”
Both the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 include the “Martens clause.”
As the United States is the likely provider of these weapons to Israel (The U.S. delivered at least 100 GBU 28 Bunker Busters Bombs containing DU warheads), it is relevant to point out that the U.S. is a signatory of both The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
In a 1942 case (Ex Parte Quirin), the United States Supreme Court ruled that this clause is U.S. law.
When it results from a specific Treaty provision, the illegality of the weapon binds solely the countries having signed and ratified the Treaty. On the other hand, when it results from a violation of Humanitarian Law, the illegality of a weapon is universal as it applies to all countries whether or not a specific convention banning that particular weapon exists.
Is there a specific convention banning depleted uranium weapons?
The body of International Law on poisonous weapons includes the following instruments: the Second Hague Declaration of July 29, 1899, The Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907 and the Geneva Protocol of June 17, 1925.
In 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave an advisory opinion on the “legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” The opinion made it clear that none of the legal instruments mentioned above applied to nuclear weapons.
But although their opinion was restricted to nuclear weapons, the wording of the ICJ opinion clearly also excludes DU weapons from the field of application of International Law on poisonous weapons because the opinion states that it applies only to weapons “whose prime, or even exclusive, effect is to poison or asphyxiate,” which is clearly not the case of DU munitions.
The conclusion of the ICJ and its extension to DU weapons is widely accepted among International Law experts. For, instance, in a 2002 U.N. working paper, Yeung Sik Yuen wrote: “Since weapons containing DU are relatively new weapons no treaty exists yet to regulate, limit or prohibit its use. The legality or illegality of DU weapons must therefore be tested by recourse to the general rules governing the use of weapons under Humanitarian Law.”
When does a weapon violate humanitarian law?
Humanitarian law governs the following areas: military operations, protection of victims of war, and weapons. It includes both the Treaties and Customary International Law relevant to these areas.
Key instruments of Customary International Law are the Hague law and the Geneva Law which governs respectively military operations and the protection of parties in time of war.
Both the United States Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice have upheld the binding nature of Customary Humanitarian Law.
There are four rules derived from the whole of Humanitarian Law regarding weapons:
1st Rule. The Weapon must pass a test of territoriality. Its effects must be restricted to legal military targets of the enemy in the war. A contrario, weapons may adversely affect neither civilians nor a non-enemy population.
2nd Rule. The Weapon must pass a test of temporality. The adverse effect of the weapon must end at once at the end of an armed conflict. Clearly, a weapon that would keep on killing or injuring people after the end of an armed conflict would fail this test.
3rd Rule. The Weapon must pass a test of humaneness. According to the wording of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, a weapon may not cause “unnecessary suffering” or “superfluous injury.”
4th Rule. The Weapon must pass an environmental test. Weapons may not have unnecessary negative effect on the environment. This rule partially overlaps with the second one as this type of effect could adversely affect future generations.
Do depleted uranium weapons fail the tests of Humanitarian Law?
DU weapons can potentially cause health hazard because of their nuclear toxicity as well as their chemical toxicity. As DU is actually less radioactive than natural uranium, the later is more likely than the former. Indeed, like any other heavy metals, DU is potentially poisonous.
Health statistics in Iraq and Kosovo seem to indicate a rise in cancer and birth defects. Among U.S. and allied military, many believe that there is a link with the use of DU weapons. If the link could be established by the scientific community, I have little doubt that International Lawyers would rapidly reach a consensus on the illegality of these weapons.
The problem is that on both side of the Atlantic, government and private organizations claimed that there is no credible scientific evidence proving a link between DU exposure and increases in human cancers, birth defects or other significant health impacts.
According to an IAEA investigation, the DU munitions used during the Gulf War pose no significant radiological hazard to the people of Kuwait.
A study of Gulf War veterans who have embedded irremovable DU shrapnel in their bodies has reported no health abnormalities due to uranium chemical toxicity or radio toxicity.
Yesterday, Dr Mike Repacholi, who oversaw the work on the 2001 report of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the BBC that depleted uranium is “basically safe.”
“You would have to ingest a huge amount of depleted uranium dust to cause any adverse health effect,” Repacholi said.
According to the WHO 2001 report, risks of other radiation-induced cancers, including leukemia, are even less likely.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Javier Solana said in January 2001 that “there is no evidence to suggest that expended depleted uranium munitions represented a significant risk for NATO-led forces or the civil population in the Balkans.”
Yet, a few high profile scientists have voiced strong criticisms towards these reports.
Dr. Keith Baverstock, a member of the 2001 WHO report team, said that US Department of Defence has conducted research leading to evidence that depleted uranium is harmful. He points explicitly at a process known as geno-toxicity, which begins when depleted uranium dust is inhaled.
“The particles that dissolve pose a risk — part radioactive — and part from the chemical toxicity in the lung,” Baverstock said.
Once entered in the body and the blood stream, the DU material may potentially affects bone marrow, the lymphatic system and the kidneys.
Dr Baverstock believes that these findings were intentionally not included in the 2001 WHO report. Other top scientists have voiced similar concerns such sd Dr. Doug Rokke, a former Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project.
“I am dismayed that Department of Defense and Department of Energy officials and representatives continue personal attacks aimed to silence or discredit those of us who are demanding that medical care be provided to all DU casualties and that environmental remediation is completed in compliance with U.S. Army Regulation,” Dr. Rokke wrote on July 24th 2006.
Reactions from international bodies
The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, passed two motions — the first in 1996 and the second in 1997- in which they listed DU munitions as weapons “with indiscriminate effect, or of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”
The members of the Committee requested a UN working paper on this matter that was delivered in 2002 by Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen.
In his report, Yuen argued that the use of DU weapons may breach the following treaties: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Genocide Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions including Protocol I, the Convention on Conventional Weapons of 1980, and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In January 2001, The European Lawmaking Institutions adopted a joint Resolution on the consequences of using depleted uranium munitions (The E.U. Parliament voted 394 in favor, 60 against and 106 abstentions) calling for a moratorium of DU weapons in accordance with the precautionary principle.
In 2001, Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that NATO’s use of depleted uranium in former Yugoslavia could be investigated as a possible war crime.
Her predecessor, Louise Arbour, had created an internal committee to reflect on the legality of DU weapons. The Committee concluded that “it is possible that, in future, there will be consensus views in international legal circles that use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict.”

U.S. Army must remove depleted uranium

Sequoyah Fuels, the former uranium processing plant near Gore, is one step closer to closing after a clause to have the U.S. Army remove depleted uranium from the plant was included in the Defense Authorization Act signed by President George W. Bush last week.
John Ellis, Sequoyah Fuels president, said Tuesday that the Army should be making plans to remove the depleted uranium soon.
“I’m assuming they’ll move it pretty quickly,” Ellis said. “The deadline to remove the materials is March 31.”
The depleted uranium, a bright green powder, is stored in 1,000 55-gallon drums. Ellis said the amount stored at Sequoyah Fuels is enough to fill about 50 semi-trailer loads.
“It’s very low radiation, and is about the color of a really bright green lawn,” Ellis explained, adding there is no use for the depleted uranium other than armor-piercing bullets, which the Army no longer uses.
He has no idea where the depleted uranium will be taken. That decision is up to the Army he said. Two possibilities are Nevada, “Where they tested the atomic bomb,” or a site in Utah.
Closed since 1993, Sequoyah Fuels has been in the long process of closing ever since. To do so Sequoyah Fuels owners must have the approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other government organizations.
Ellis said the Oklahoma legislative delegation helped with the removal of the depleted uranium. U.S. Congressman Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) worked on getting the language in the Defense Authorization Act requiring removal of the depleted uranium by the U.S. Army.
Nick Choate, with Boren’s office in Washington, D.C., said he talked to Army officials Tuesday to make plans for the removal.
Sequoyah Fuels, which originally processed uranium for fuel rods for nuclear power generators, sold the depleted uranium to the U.S. Army for armor-piercing ammunition.
“The Army converted the depleted uranium to a heavy metal for armor-piercing bullets,” Ellis said.
Ellis said Sequoyah Fuels still has several other materials to dispose of or bury in a specially-designed cell.
When the site is finally closed, the U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to take possession of the plant site and between 100 and 300 acres surrounding the site.
“The Department of Energy is going to be the owner of the property,” Ellis said.
Before then Ellis said he must dispose of a large amount of raffinate sludge. Raffinate sludge is a by-product of the first step in the processing of uranium, Ellis explained.
“I have 11,000 one-ton bags of raffinate sludge, with most of the water removed, waiting to be shipped,” Ellis said.
He explained that the raffinate still contains some uranium, which can be processed out. Several companies are considering buying the material because, Ellis said, the remaining uranium in the raffinate sludge is worth between $43 and $44 per pound.
Sequoyah Fuels will also soon be demolishing buildings, cutting up equipment, and gathering low-contaminated soils to place in a storage cell, which will be on the site.
“Everything will be gone but the office building,” Ellis said.
He added he expects it will take about three years to clean up the rest of the site and place the contaminated materials in the on-site cell.
“It will take about another year to transfer ownership to the Department of Energy, and at least five years to completely close the plant,” Ellis said.
He concluded that he plans to retired at that time.

Canada: Ombudsman says Forces failed troops who battled Kuwait fire

OTTAWA — Canada failed its first Persian Gulf war veterans who fell ill after being exposed to poisonous chemicals, including depleted uranium from U.S. munitions, a military ombudsman said yesterday.
One soldier of the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment died of cancer, and about 60 others developed cancer or respiratory symptoms after the unit fought a fire at a U.S. munitions depot in Doha, Kuwait, in 1991.
The warehouse contained shells made of depleted uranium, a radioactive metal heavier than lead and prized for its armour-piercing properties.
But the Canadian Forces have so far systematically ignored the complaints of the soldiers who inhaled that toxic smoke, Forces ombudsman Yves Côté said yesterday.
“Their significant health concerns were systematically ignored during, and after, their service to Canada,” he told reporters.
In a damning 46-page report, the ombudsman detailed how key information was left missing from medical files of some of the 340 combat engineers.
That hampered the soldiers’ claims to compensation or care, the ombudsman said.
And while the Department of National Defence has improved some of its record-keeping procedures since then, the same fate could befall Canadians serving in Afghanistan, Mr. Côté suggested.
“The National Defence [Department] seems unable to identify with accuracy and confidence who was deployed and for what period of time during recent missions to Afghanistan,” he said.
In 2000, a board of inquiry that looked into allegations that Canadian soldiers were exposed to toxic material while serving in the Balkans also found that deployment lists lacked key information.
A DND official disputed the ombudsman’s position.
During the mid-1990s, the Forces implemented a computerized system that keeps track of all its soldiers deployed overseas, Lieutenant-Commander Pierre Babinsky said last night.
But that system provides no information as to exactly where in a combat theatre an individual solider has served, LCdr. Babinsky said.
Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor said in a statement that his department will study the ombudsman’s report.
A senior officer who served with the combat engineer regiment in Kuwait welcomed Mr. Côté’s report. “This is fantastic,” said retired major Fred Kaustinen.
“It’s great that a leader in our system has stepped up and said these guys didn’t get what they deserved.”
The ombudsman’s report appears to be the first acknowledgment from a DND official that soldiers were exposed to noxious substances while in Kuwait, an assertion many of them have repeatedly made.
But the report could not establish a clear connection between the exposure to depleted uranium and the health problems developed later by the soldiers who served in that mission.
Nor did it find a definite link between the smoke billowing from the burning wells in the region — which sometimes obscured the light of day — and respiratory diseases some soldiers developed.