Depleted Uranium: a by-procluct of the Nuclear Chain


The origin of depleted uranium (DU) weapon technology goes back to the middle of the 1960s. Instead of tungsten, the United States Army began to apply DU in the core of antitank shells.

Later, DU also became part of the interior of tank armor to prevent hostile attack by munitions. Supervised by the US Army, the first DU antitank shells were tested during the Yom Kippur War (1974) by the Israeli Army. According to military strategists, the results were beyond expectation. The destruction of the heavily armored Soviet-made tank (T-72) from the Arabic states was no big deal for the penetrators made from DU, because they did not have the DU armor to tackle DU projectiles.

In fact, during the Gulf War of 1991, friendly fire that hit DU-armored US Abrams tanks (M1A1) appeared not to be able to resist its own DU penetrators. So we don´t need so much imaginative faculty to understand the Strategic results of the DU shells from the US and UK forces used in the 1991 Gulf War against the Third World tank divisions of the Iraqi Army.

Although the tungsten-made shells can penetrate the conventional armor as easily as DU-made shells, the latter are more destructive because from a strategic point of view, the DU shells have a pyroforic (inflammable) nature. Hitting an armored vehicle, a DU shell ignites on impact. Within a few seconds, the vehicle is on fire, burning the tank crew alive. For another, there is uncontrolled dispersion of uranium dust. On impact the melting DU metal fragments of the penetrator aerolizes into a large amount of dust particles of uranium oxide, threatening the environment and public health in the long term.

The resistance against the military use of depleted uranium came into existence after the Gulf War of 1991, when DU antitank shells were used for the first time on a large scale. Since Operation Desert Storm, DU weaponry has become a growing part of the NATO´s concentional armory.

A few years after the Gulf War, the Depleted Uranium Citizen´s Network was established by the Military Toxics Project in the United States. This network consists of many grassroots organizations opposing the military use of DU. Among them: veterans´ organizations, indigenous people, social movements and scientists. The rapid proliferation of DU weaponry also gave rise to the rapid building of a global network against the use of this radioactive and chemotoxic weapon system.




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