What is ‘Depleted Uranium’?
The prefix ‘depleted’ suggest us that this is a mild version, which could also be suggested as its origin as a waste product of a nuclear power station. However, radioactivity is a standard property of uranium, and one gram will always give off 12,000 "atomic disintegrations" per second. It is pointless to discriminate between mildly, moderately and highly radioactive uranium – all uranium is highly radioactive (though not necessarily enriched).
The military interest in this metal was the discovery that it is readily producing immensely high temperatures when included in bombs, shells and bullets. It produces temperatures exceeding 6,000 C and then vaporizes, the dust eventually entering the respiratory system of distant people, friend and foe alike. But the military interest is limited to the immediate gain of this heat production, enabling the disruption of previously invincible structures. This is the working mechanism of the ‘bunker-blasting bombs.’
The introduction of the new weapon appears to have been the first Gulf War in 1991. 375 tons were distributed then – not much compared to later use but with detrimental effects to the own troops (and probably worse to Iraqi civilians, see later).
Since then, the radioactive weapon has been dispersed over Serbia in 1995-99, Afghanistan 2001-02, Iraq again since 2003 and Lebanon by Israel in 2006. Whether it has also been used in Israel’s recent destructive war against Gaza, remains to be proved 75 tons were reported. It has further been tested on Okinawa (Japan) and in Costa Rica in 1995-96.
Compared to the use of
nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, which killed ~¼ million people, a
much higher amount of radioactive substances have been released.
Although it is
attempted to hide the number of victims, it has also been suggested
number may bypass the Japanese figures.
There are four kinds of victims to uranium-ammunition:
1) the original targets, the unhappy soldiers beyond the not-so-sure armour;
2) the ‘allied’ or Israeli soldiers inhaling radioactive dust for months;
3) civilians exposed to the same, but for years; and
4) children produced from radioactive soldier's couplings and the mentioned civilians with devastating birth defects. Possibly, it is reasonable to identify a fifth group of victims: the soldier’s wives (radioactivity transferred with semen).
Concerning the second group, the ‘Gulf War syndrome’ caused extreme morbidity (in 2000, 325,000 of 580,400 soldiers participating in the 1st Gulf War were on permanent medical leave and mortality was booming among a large part of the soldiers active in Iraq since 1991 – we know now, it is a radiation toxicity, often a predecessor of a malignant disease to which there is no treatment, no cure. Medical care is denied or delayed for all uranium exposed casualties while the United States Department of Defense and the British Ministry of Defence officials continue to deny any correlation between uranium exposure and adverse health and environmental effects.
The amount of severe birth defects in Iraq since 1991 has been very impressive, though hidden to a statistical evaluation. The children had committed the crime of being siblings to inhabitants of Saddam Hussein’s regime, therefore we are not interested.
In Serbia, the recipient of thousands of tons of uranium-containing bombs, the general incidence of cancer has at least doubled. Here known as the ‘Balkan Syndrome,’ the use of depleted uranium shells are suspected of being responsible for the ill-health of both veterans and former peacekeepers.
To the victims must also be
counted the future victims, since this war-crime, the spread of
substances, goes on.
The ‘Dirty Bomb’
Having dispersed so much radioactivity over some countries and openly threatening a repetition over Iran in the near future, it almost looks as a hypocrisy when ‘dirty bombs’ (i.e. bombs causing distribution of radioactivity over large civilian areas) are in focus as possible terrorist targets. However, knowing that the majority of terrorist activities are carried out by the very governmental organs that should protect us against them, it must be feared that the dirty bomb may really hit us (as long as it does not hit ‘them,’ perhaps our best defence).
Disposal of Radioactive Waste
It deserves attention that there worldwide, in spite of widespread nuclear energy use, does not exist a single ‘permanent’ deposit for the nuclear waste from nuclear power plants, therefore numerous ‘temporary’ ones. The bombs containing depleted uranium are therefore an important way to get rid of the problematic surplus. Another way has been to dump it in the oceans, where then dolphins have presented impressive burns from leaking barrels. In Germany, barrels with radioactive waste are rapidly rusting in the intruding salted water of an earlier mine – the ground-water will soon carry the punishment out.
April 10, 2010
April 10, 2010