Military Properties of DU
Future Threats on an Unprecedented Scale
Future Threats On An Unprecedented Scale
Recent investigations by the independent British researcher, Dai Williams, have revealed a terrifying picture of massive new DU-based "bunker-busters" (or more formally, hard-target guided smart bombs).
His January 2002 report, reports the existence of a classified "dense metal" in the new generation of bunker busters, that is twice as dense as steel, and hence can only be Uranium or Tungsten (with the latter being too expensive to buy and manufacture). This allows warheads of the same length and weight to be 30% slimmer (more like explosive spears than bombs) thus penetrating much further.
He therefore suggests that some of these warheads contain over a thousand kg of DU each (eg. the GBU-128, with 1,500 kg of DU), and the new hardened cruise missiles also contain several hundred kg of DU, and he notes the largest non-nuclear device in the US arsenal, the 20,000-pound "Big BLU", containing over 5 tonnes of DU, which came into service in early 2002.
Williams also concludes that the use of DU in existing weapons is more widespread than was believed, including the widely deployed Maverick and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles (up to 30 kg of DU each) and some anti-tank cluster bombs.
One further implication of a DU warhead, is the probability of 100% combustion into the lethal uranium oxide cloud, as opposed to the kinetic DU penetrators used in A10 bullets and tank shells, "only" 20% to 50% of which are aerosolised on impact.
These new bunker busters were first widely used in Afghanistan in 2001, but prototypes were probably used on Yugoslavia (and maybe Iraq too, in the December 1998 'Desert Fox' bombardment, or since).
Dai Williams' report was reviewed by Robert James Parsons in Le Monde, March 2002
Williams published a follow-up report in September 2002, focussing on the dangers of a future DU war on Iraq.
So-called 4th-generation nuclear weapons are currently under development around the world and these are pure-fusion (or sub-critical fission) devices with low radiation fallout. There are fears that the radiation from DU munitions may be used to camouflage their eventual use. More pertinently, the use of DU in Iraq has already broken a 46-year taboo on the use of radioactive weapons, and set a dangerous precedent, thus softening up public opinion for a further ratcheting up of nuclear weaponry on the modern battlefield.
A research paper submitted by Swiss scientists to the Yugoslav Nuclear Society in October 2002, suggested that the radiological burden due to the battlefield use of 40 tonnes of DU munitions is comparable to that arising from the hypothetical battlefield use of more than 60 kilotons worth (equivalent to 5 Hiroshimas) of 4th-generation nuclear weapons.
DU has even been used in civilian products, eg. as ballast in aircraft.
This can have serious and long-lasting consequences, as in 1992, when an Israeli El-Al cargo jet containing up to 400kg of DU in its structure (only 150kg of which was recovered afterwards), crashed into a block of flats in Amsterdam - although there are many theories about what was on that plane (incl Sarin components and DU missiles), and Mossad were first on the scene, to remove bits of evidence (see
reports, following 1999 inquiry).
The Korean 747 which crashed near Stansted airport in Essex in December 1999 also contained several hundred kg of DU, while the unknown DU content of the hijacked planes crashed in New York on Sep11 is a possible culprit for the so-called "WTC cough".
In the 1980s, Boeing discontinued the use of DU (for the 747 at least) and replaced it with tungsten, but many older models remain in service around the world.
In most civilian uses, the danger from U238 arises principally when it catches fire, and oxidises (thus releasing its deadly particle cloud).
As an aside, let me now point out the existence of a 1996 European Directive
on radiation safety standards
(Council Directive 96/29/Euratom: Directive on Radiological Protection),
which provides for the deregulation of radioactively contaminated materials from nuclear power stations, bomb factories etc, so long as they aren't too 'hot' - that is, if their radioactivity is below certain "safe" thresholds, as defined by pro-nuclear organisations such as Euratom and the IAEA.
This Directive specifically allows 'cleared' materials - and the radioactivity they contain - to go for unregulated recycling, reuse or disposal. The US has introduced parallel legislation, and the US Dept of Energy proposes to use DU in roads and structural materials.
After the Green Group in the European Parliament failed to amend this Directive, they called a conference in Strasbourg to discuss the issue, and as a result, the EU created the ECRR, to carry out further research on this topic.
Refer to The Low Level Radiation Campaign for more information on the dangers of low-level radiation - especially their Health Effects.
Dr Rosalie Bertell's 1985 book, No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, was a seminal work on the dangers of low-level man-made radiation, which analyses the damage done by what is regarded as "acceptable" background radiation produced by modern industry, and illustrates how statistics on its negative effects are badly skewed by discounting most of the indirect harm it causes, thus tilting cost/benefit analyses towards conclusions favourable to the nuclear industry.
We always have to remember that the future generations on this planet are not nebulous, we are right now carrying them in our bodies, they don't come from out of space! They come from the sperm and the ovum that are right now living in the bodies of people living on this planet. If we destroy that, we have no way of putting it back together again - Dr Bertell in Oslo, 1990.
She has attributed 1.3 billion worldwide casualties (deaths and sicknesses), to nuclear plants and atmospheric testing - The Ecologist, November 1999