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Depleted uranium (DU) is uranium primarily composed of the isotope uranium-238 (U-238). Natural uranium is about 99.27 percent U-238, 0.72 percent U-235, and 0.0055 percent U-234. U-235 is used for fission in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Uranium is enriched in U-235 by separating the isotopes by mass. The byproduct of enrichment, called depleted uranium or DU, contains less than one third as much U-235 and U-234 as natural uranium. The external radiation dose from DU is about 60 percent of that from the same mass of natural uranium. DU is also found in reprocessed spent nuclear reactor fuel, but that kind can be distinguished from DU produced as a byproduct of uranium enrichment by the presence of U-236. In the past, DU has been called Q-metal, depletalloy, and D-38.

DU is useful because of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3. Civilian uses include counterweights in aircraft, radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy and industrial radiography equipment, and containers used to transport radioactive materials. Military uses include defensive armor plating and armor-piercing projectiles.

The use of DU in munitions is controversial because of questions about potential long-term health effects. Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal. It is weakly radioactive and remains so because of its long half-life. The aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel. In a three week period of conflict in Iraq during 2003 it was estimated over 1000 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used, mostly in cities. The U.S.marker Department of Defensemarker claims that no human cancer of any type has been seen as a result of exposure to either natural or depleted uranium;yet, U.S. DoD studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure, and ample evidence of the carcinogenic properties of uranium has appeared in the secondary medical literature since the 1950s.Also, the UK Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service in early 2004 attributed birth defect claims from a February 1991 Gulf War combat veteran to depleted uranium poisoning. A 2005 epidemiology review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."


Enriched uranium was first manufactured in the 1940s when the USmarker and USSRmarker began their nuclear weapons and nuclear power programs. It was at this time that depleted uranium was first stored as an unusable waste product. There was some hope that the enrichment process would be improved and fission isotopes of U-235 could, at some future date, be extracted from the depleted uranium. This re-enrichment recovery of the residual uranium-235 contained in the depleted uranium is no longer a matter of the future: it has been practiced for several years. Also, it is possible to design civilian power reactors with unenriched fuel, but only about 10 percent of reactors ever built utilize that technology, and both nuclear weapons production and naval reactors require the concentrated isotope.

In the 1970s, the Pentagonmarker reported that the Soviet military had developed armor plating for Warsaw Pact tanks that NATOmarker ammunition could not penetrate. The Pentagon began searching for material to make denser bullets. After testing various metals, ordnance researchers settled on depleted uranium.

The US and NATO military used DU penetrator rounds in the 1991 Gulf War, the Bosnia war, bombing of Serbia, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

While clearing a decades-old Hawai'imarker firing range in 2005, workers found depleted uranium training rounds from the formerly classified Davy Crockett tactical battlefield nuclear delivery system from the 1960-70s. These training rounds had been forgotten because they were used in a highly classified program and had been fired before DU had become an item of interest, more than 20 years before the Gulf War.

Production and availability

Natural uranium metal contains about 0.71 percent U-235, 99.28 percent U-238, and about 0.0054 percent U-234. In order to produce enriched uranium, the process of isotope separation removes a substantial portion of the U-235 for use in nuclear power, weapons, or other uses. The remainder, depleted uranium, contains only 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent U-235. Because natural uranium begins with such a low percentage of U-235, enrichment produces large quantities of depleted uranium. For example, producing 1 kg of five percent enriched uranium requires 11.8 kg of natural uranium, and leaves about 10.8 kg of depleted uranium with only 0.3 percent U-235 remaining.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) defines depleted uranium as uranium with a percentage of the 235U isotope that is less than 0.711 percent by weight (See 10 CFR 40.4.) The military specifications designate that the DU used by the U.S.marker Department of Defensemarker (DoD) contain less than 0.3 percent 235U (AEPI, 1995). In actuality, DoD uses only DU that contains approximately 0.2 percent 235U (AEPI, 1995).

Uranium hexafluoride

Hexafluoride tank leaking.
About 95 percent of the depleted uranium produced is stored as uranium hexafluoride, a crystalline solid, (D)UF6, in steel cylinders in open air storage yards close to enrichment plants. Each cylinder holds up to 12.7 tonnes (or 14 short tons) of UF6. In the U.S. 560,000 tonnes of depleted UF6 had accumulated by 1993. In 2008, 686,500 tonnes in 57,122 storage cylinders were located near Portsmouth, Ohiomarker and Paducah, Kentuckymarker. Depleted UF6 Management Program Documents

The storage of DUF6 presents environmental, health, and safety risks because of its chemical instability. When UF6 is exposed to water vapor in the air, it reacts with the moisture to produce UO2F2 (uranyl fluoride), a solid, and HF (hydrogen fluoride), a gas, both of which are highly soluble and toxic. The uranyl fluoride solid acts to plug the leak, limiting further escape of depleted UF6. Release of the hydrogen fluoride gas to the atmosphere is also slowed by the plug formation. Storage cylinders must be regularly inspected for signs of corrosion and leaks and are repainted and repaired as necessary. The estimated life time of the steel cylinders is measured in decades. The DOE is constructing two facilities to convert the UF6 to a more stable chemical form for long term storage. These facilities are expected to be in operation by early 2009 and take around 20 years to process the entire US government stock of UF6.

A ten-fold jump in uranium prices has transformed approximately one-third of the U.S. depleted uranium inventory into an asset worth $7.6 billion, assuming DOE re-enriches the tails. This estimate is based on February 2008 market price for uranium and enrichment services, and DOE's access to sufficient uranium enrichment capacity.

There have been several accidents involving uranium hexafluoride in the United States, including one in which 31 workers were exposed to a cloud of UF6 and its reaction products and a man died after inhaling some of the resulting gas. Though some of the more highly exposed workers showed evidence of short-term kidney damage (e.g., protein in the urine), none of these workers had lasting kidney toxicity from the uranium exposure. The U.S. government has been converting DUF6 to solid uranium oxides for use or disposal. Such disposal of the entire DUF6 inventory could cost anywhere from $15 million to $450 million.

:::::::World depleted uranium inventory
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:::: Source: WISE Uranium Project

Military applications

The 105mm M900 APFSDS-T (Depleted Uranium Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot - Tracer)

Depleted uranium is very dense; at 19050 kg/m³, it is 1.67 times as dense as lead, only slightly less dense than tungstenand gold, and 84% as dense as osmiumor iridium, which are the densest known substances under standard (i.e., Earth-surface) pressures. Thus a given mass of it has a smaller diameter than an equivalent lead projectile, with less aerodynamic dragand deeper penetrationdue to a higher pressure at point of impact. DU projectile ordnance is often incendiarybecause of its pyrophoricproperty.

Armor plate

Because of its high density, depleted uranium can also be used in tank armor, sandwiched between sheets of steel armor plate. For instance, some late-production M1A1HA and M1A2 Abramstanks built after 1998 have DU reinforcement as part of the armor plating in the front of the hull and the front of the turret, and there is a program to upgrade the rest (see Chobham armor).

Nuclear weapons

Depleted uranium is used as a tamperin fission bombsand as a nuclear explosive in hydrogen bomb. It is a potential containment material for a Nuclear shaped chargedue to its opacityto X-Rays.


Most military use of depleted uranium has been as 30 mm caliberordnance, primarily the 30 mm PGU-14/B armour-piercing incendiaryround from the GAU-8 Avengercannon of the A-10 Thunderbolt IIused by the United States Air Force. 25 mm DU rounds have been used in the M242gun mounted on the U.S. Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicleand LAV-25. The United States Marine Corpsuses DU in the 25 mm PGU-20 round fired by the GAU-12 Equalizercannon of the AV-8B Harrier, and also in the 20 mm M197gun mounted on AH-1 Cobrahelicopter gunships. The United States Navy's Phalanx CIWS's M61 VulcanGatling gunused 20 mm armor-piercing penetrator rounds with discarding plasticsabotswhich were made using depleted uranium, later changed to tungsten.

Another use of depleted uranium is in kinetic energy penetratorsanti-armorrounds, such as the 120 mm sabot rounds fired from the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams. Kinetic energy penetrator rounds consist of a long, relatively thin penetrator surrounded by discarding sabot. Two materials lend themselves to penetrator construction: tungsten and depleted uranium, the latter in designated alloys known as staballoys. Staballoys are metal alloys of depleted uranium with a very small proportion of other metals, usually titaniumor molybdenum. One formulation has a composition of 99.25 percent by mass of depleted uranium and 0.75 percent by mass of titanium. Staballoys are about twice as dense as lead and are designed for use in kinetic energy penetratorarmor-piercingammunition. The US Armyuses DU in an alloy with around 3.5 percent titanium.

Staballoys, along with lower raw material costs, have the advantage of being easy to melt and cast into shape; a difficult and expensive process for tungsten. According to recent research, at least some of the most promising tungsten alloys which have been considered as replacement for depleted uranium in penetrator ammunitions, such as tungsten-cobaltor tungsten-nickel-cobalt alloys, also possess extreme carcinogenicproperties, which by far exceed those (confirmed or suspected) of depleted uranium itself: 100 percent of ratsimplanted with a pellet of such alloys developed lethal rhabdomyosarcomawithin a few weeks. On more properly military grounds, depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is self-sharpening and pyrophoric. On impact with a hard target, such as an armored vehicle, the nose of the rod fractures in such a way that it remains sharp. The impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to disintegrate to dust and burn when it reaches air because of its pyrophoricproperties. When a DU penetrator reaches the interior of an armored vehicle, it catches fire, often igniting ammunition and fuel, killing the crew, and possibly causing the vehicle to explode. DU is used by the U.S. Army in 120 mm or 105 mm cannons employed on the M1 Abramsand M60A3tanks. The Russian military has used DU ammunition in tankmain gun ammunition since the late 1970s, mostly for the 115 mm guns in the T-62tank and the 125 mm guns in the T-64, T-72, T-80, and T-90tanks.

The DU content in various ammunition is 180 g in 20 mm projectiles, 200 g in 25 mm ones, 280 g in 30 mm, 3.5 kg in 105 mm, and 4.5 kg in 120 mm penetrators. DU was used during the mid-1990s in the U.S. to make grenades, cluster bombs, and mines, but those applications have been discontinued, according to Alliant Techsystems. The US Navyused DU in its 20 mm Phalanx CIWSguns, but switched in the late 1990s to armor-piercing tungsten.

It is thought that between 17 and 20 countries have weapons incorporating depleted uranium in their arsenals. They include the U.S., the UKmarker, Francemarker, Russiamarker, Chinamarker, Turkeymarker, Israelmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Bahrainmarker, Egyptmarker, Kuwaitmarker, Pakistanmarker, Thailandmarker, Iraqmarker and Taiwanmarker.DU ammunition is manufactured in 18 countries. Only the US and the UK have acknowledged using DU weapons.

The Iranian GovernmentTV news channel Press TVclaimed on January 4, 2009, that evidence of depleted uranium exposure has been found in wounds of casualties of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict.

Legal status in weapons

In 1996 the International Court of Justicemarker (ICJ) gave an advisory opinion on the "legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons".This made it clear, in paragraphs 54, 55 and 56, that international lawon poisonous weapons—the Second Hague Declaration of 29 July 1899, Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907 and the Geneva Protocol of 17 June 1925—did not cover nuclear weapons, because their prime or exclusive use was not to poison or asphyxiate. This ICJ opinion was about nuclear weapons, but the sentence "The terms have been understood, in the practice of States, in their ordinary sense as covering weapons whose prime, or even exclusive, effect is to poison or asphyxiate," also removes depleted uranium weaponry from coverage by the same treaties as their primary use is not to poison or asphyxiate, but to destroy materialand kill soldiers through kinetic energy.

The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minoritiesof the United Nations Human Rights Commission, passed two motions — the first in 1996 and the second in 1997. They listed weapons of mass destruction, or weapons with indiscriminate effect, or of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and urged all states to curb the production and the spread of such weapons. Included in the list was weaponry containing depleted uranium. The committee authorized a working paper, in the context of human rightsand humanitarian norms, of the weapons. The requested UN working paper was delivered in 2002 by Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen in accordance with Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rightsresolution 2001/36. He argues that the use of DU in weapons, along with the other weapons listed by the Sub‑Commission, may breach one or more of 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 Conventionsincluding Protocol I, the Convention on Conventional Weaponsof 1980, and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Yeung Sik Yuen writes in Paragraph 133 under the title "Legal compliance of weapons containing DU as a new weapon":

In 2001, Carla Del Ponte, then the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslaviamarker, said that NATO'smarker use of depleted uranium in former Yugoslaviamarker could be investigated as a possible war crime.Louise Arbour, Del Ponte's predecessor as chief prosecutor, had created a small, internal committee, made up of staff lawyers, to assess the allegation. Their findings, that were accepted and endorsed by Del Ponte, concluded that:

Requests for a moratorium on military use

Some states and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, a coalition of more than 120 non-governmental organizations, have asked for a ban on the production and military use of depleted uranium weapons.

The European Parliamentmarker has repeatedly passed resolutions requesting an immediate moratorium on the further use of depleted uranium ammunition, but Francemarker and Britainmarker – the only EU states that are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – have consistently rejected calls for a ban, maintaining that its use continues to be legal, and that the health risks are entirely unsubstantiated.

In 2007 France, Britain, the Netherlandsmarker, and the Czech Republicmarker voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution to hold a debate in 2009 about the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium.All other European Union nations voted in favour or abstained.The ambassador from the Netherlands explained his negative vote as being due to the reference in the preamble to the resolution "to potential harmful effects of the use of depleted uranium munitions on human health and the environment [which] cannot, in our view, be supported by conclusive scientific studies conducted by relevant international organizations." None of the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council supported the resolution as China was absent for the vote, Russia abstained and United Statesmarker voted against the resolution.

In September 2008, and in response to the 2007 General Assembly resolution, the UN Secretary General published the views of 15 states alongside those of the International Atomic Energy Agencymarker (IAEA) and World Health Organization (WHO).The IAEA and WHO evidence differed little from previous statements on the issue. The report was largely split between states concerned about depleted uranium's use such as Finlandmarker, Cubamarker, Japanmarker, Serbiamarker, Argentinamarker and predominantly NATOmarker members who do not consider the use of depleted uranium munitions problematic.

In December 2008, 141 states supported a resolution requesting that three UN agencies: United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), WHO and IAEA update their research on the impact of uranium munitions by late 2010 - to coincide with the General Assembly's 65th Session, four voted against, 34 abstained and 13 were absent As before Britain and France voted against the resolution. All other European Union nations voted in favour or abstained: the Netherlands, which voted against a resolution in 2007, voted in favour, as did Finland and Norwaymarker, both of which had abstained in 2007, while the Czech Republic, which voted against the resolution in 2007, abstained.The two other states that voted against the resolution were Israelmarker and the United States (both of which voted against in 2007), while as before Chinamarker was absent for the vote, and Russia abstained.

On June 21, 2009, Belgiummarker became the first country in the world to ban: "inert ammunition and armour that contains depleted uranium or any other industrially manufactured uranium."The move followed a unanimous parliamentary vote on the issue on 22 March 2007. The text of the 2007 law allowed for two years to pass until it came into force. In April 2009, the Belgian Senate voted unanimously to restrict investments by Belgian banks into the manufacturers of depleted uranium weapons.

In September 2009, the Latin American Parliamentpassed a resolution calling for a regional moratorium on the use, production and procurement of uranium weapons. It also called on the Parlatino's members to work towards an international uranium weapons treaty.

Civilian applications

Civilian applications for depleted uranium are typically unrelated to its radioactive properties. Depleted uranium has a very high density and is primarily used as shielding material for other radioactive material, and as ballast. Examples include sailboat keels, as counterweightsand as shielding in industrial radiographycameras.

Shielding in industrial radiography cameras

Industrial radiography cameras include a very high activity gamma radiationsource (typically Ir-192(Activity >10 TBq). Depleted uranium is often used in the cameras as a shield to protect individuals from the gamma source. Typically the uranium will be surrounded by polyurethanefoam to protect the uranium from the elements (and to protect operators and maintenance engineers from the beta radiationproduced by the depleted uranium (a semi-infiniteslab of depleted uranium has a contact dose rate of about 2.1 mSv per hour of which ~1.95 mSv per hour is attributable to beta radiation and the remaining 0.15 mSv per hour attributable to gamma/x-ray/bremsstrahlungradiation from the uranium)), and stainless steel will be used to house the device.

Coloring in consumer products

Consumer product uses have included incorporation into dental porcelain, used for false teethto simulate the fluorescence of natural teeth, and uranium-bearing reagents used in chemistry laboratories (eg. uranyl acetate, used in analytical chemistryand as a stainin electron microscopy). Uranium (both depleted uranium and natural uranium) was widely used as a coloring matter for porcelainand glassin the 19th and early to mid 20th century. The practice was largely discontinued in the late 20th century. In 1999 concentrations of 10% depleted uranium were being used in "jaune no.17" a yellow enamel powder that was being produced in Francemarker by Cristallerie de Saint-Paul, a manufacturer of enamel pigments.The depleted uranium used in the powder was sold by Cogéma's Pierrelatte facility. In February, 2000, Cogema discontinued the sale of depleted uranium to producers of enamel and glass.

Trim weights in aircraft

Aircraft that contain depleted uranium trim weights (Boeing 747-100for example) may contain between 400 to 1,500 kg of DU. This application is controversial because the DU may enter the environment if the aircraft were to crash. The metal can also oxidizeto a fine powder in a fire. Its use has been phased out in many newer aircraft. Boeingand McDonnell-Douglasdiscontinued using DU counterweights in the 1980s. Depleted uranium was released during the Bijlmer disastermarker, in which 152 kg was lost, but an extensive study concluded that there was no evidence to link depleted uranium from the plane to any health problems..Counterweights manufactured with cadmiumplatingare considered non-hazardous while the plating is intact.

U.S. NRC general license

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations at 10 CFR 40.25establish a general license for the use of depleted uranium contained in industrial products or devices for mass-volumeapplications. This general license allows anyone to possess or use depleted uranium for authorized purposes. Generally, a registration form is required, along with a commitment to not abandon the material. Agreement states may have similar, or more stringent, regulations.

Health considerations

Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal. DU is less toxicthan other heavy metalssuch as arsenicand mercury. It is weakly radioactive but remains radioactive because of its long half-life. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registrystates that: "to be exposed to radiation from uranium, you have to eat, drink, or breathe it, or get it on your skin." However, the Institute of Nuclear Technology-Radiation Protection of Attikimarker, Greecemarker, has noted that "the aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel."In a three week period of conflict in Iraq during 2003 it was estimated over 1000 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used. While any radiation exposure has risks, no conclusive data have correlated DU exposure to specific human health effects such as cancer. The U.S. Department of Defense claims that no human cancerof any type has been seen as a result of exposure to either natural or depleted uranium. Yet, studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurologicaleffects from chronic exposure. In addition, the UK Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service in early 2004 attributed birth defectclaims from a February 1991 Gulf Warcombat veteran to depleted uranium poisoning. Also, a 2005 epidemiologyreview concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."

DU is considered both a toxic and radioactive hazard that requires long term storage as low level nuclear wastein very large quantities. Its use in incendiary ammunition is controversial because of potential adverse health effects and its release into the environment. Besides its residual radioactivity, U-238 is a heavy metal whose compounds are known from laboratory studies to be toxic to mammals.

Although slow, metallic uranium is prone to corrosionand small pieces are pyrophoricat room temperature in air. When depleted uranium munitions penetrate armor or burn, they create depleted uranium oxidesin the form of dust that can be inhaled or contaminate wounds. Additionally, fragments of munitions or armor can become embedded in the body.

Chemical toxicity

Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal. The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is about a million times greater in vivothan its radiological hazard. Health effects of DU are determined by factors such as the extent of exposure and whether it was internal or external. Three main pathways exist by which internalization of uranium may occur: inhalation, ingestion, and embedded fragments or shrapnelcontamination. Properties such as phase (e.g. particulate or gaseous), oxidation state (e.g. metallic or ceramic), and the solubility of uranium and its compounds influence their absorption, distribution, translocation, eliminationand the resulting toxicity. For example, metallic uranium is relatively non-toxic compared to hexavalent uranium(VI) uranylcompounds such as uranium trioxide.

Uranium is pyrophoric when finely divided. It will corrode under the influence of air and water producing insoluble uranium(IV) and soluble uranium (VI) salts. Soluble uranium salts are toxic. Uranium slowly accumulates in several organs, such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys. The World Health Organizationhas established a daily "tolerated intake" of soluble uranium salts for the general public of 0.5 µg/kg body weight, or 35 µg for a 70 kg adult.

Epidemiological studiesand toxicological testson laboratory animals point to it as being immunotoxic, teratogenic, neurotoxic, with carcinogenicand leukemogenicpotential. A 2005 report by epidemiologists concluded: "the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defectsin offspring of persons exposed to DU."

Early studies of depleted uranium aerosol exposure assumed that uranium combustion product particles would quickly settle out of the air and thus could not affect populations more than a few kilometers from target areas, and that such particles, if inhaled, would remain undissolved in the lung for a great length of time and thus could be detected in urine. Burning uranium droplets violently produce a gaseous vapor comprising about half of the uranium in their original mass. Uranylion contamination in uranium oxides has been detected in the residue of DU munitions fires.

Radiological hazards

External exposure to radiation from pure depleted uranium is less of a concern because the alpha particleemitted by its isotopes travel only a few centimeters in air or can be stopped by a sheet of paper. Also, the low concentration of uranium-235 that remains in depleted uranium emits only a small amount of low-energygamma radiation. According to the World Health Organization, a radiationdosefrom it would be about 60 percent of that from purified natural uranium with the same mass. Approximately 90 microgramsof natural uranium, on average, exist in the human body as a result of normal intake of water, food and air. The majority of this is found in the skeleton, with the rest in various organs and tissues.

However, in a matter of a month or so, depleted uranium generates amounts of thorium-234and protactinium-234which emit beta particlesat almost the same rate as that of the alpha particles from the uranium-238. Two beta particles are emitted for each alpha particle. (See Radium series.)

The radiologicaldangers of pure depleted uranium are lower (60 percent) than those of naturally-occurring uranium due to the removal of the more radioactive isotopes, as well as due to its long half-life(4.46 billion years). Depleted uranium differs from natural uranium in its isotopic composition, but its biochemistryis for the most part the same. For further details see actinides in the environment.

Gulf War syndrome and soldier complaints

Graph showing the rate per 1,000 births of congenital malformations observed at Basra University Hospital, Iraq

Increased rates of immune systemdisorders and other wide-ranging symptoms, including chronic pain, fatigue and memory loss, have been reported in over one quarter of combat veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. Combustion products from depleted uranium munitions are being considered as one of the potential causes by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, as DU was used in 30 mm and smaller caliber machine-gun bullets on a large scale for the first time in the Gulf War. Veterans of the conflicts in the Persian Gulfmarker, Bosnia and Kosovo have been found to have up to 14 times the usual level of chromosome abnormalities in their genes.Serum-soluble genotoxic teratogens produce congenital disorders, and in white blood cells causes immune system damage.

Human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in the offspring of persons exposed to DU. A 2001 study of 15,000 February 1991 U.S. Gulf War combat veterans and 15,000 control veterans found that the Gulf War veterans were 1.8 (fathers) to 2.8 (mothers) times more likely to have children with birth defects. After examination of children's medical records two years later, the birth defect rate increased by more than 20%:

"Dr. Kang found that male Gulf War veterans reported having infants with likely birth defects at twice the rate of non-veterans. Furthermore, female Gulf War veterans were almost three times more likely to report children with birth defects than their non-Gulf counterparts. The numbers changed somewhat with medical records verification. However, Dr. Kang and his colleagues concluded that the risk of birth defects in children of deployed male veterans still was about 2.2 times that of non-deployed veterans."

In early 2004, the UK Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service attributed birth defect claims from a February 1991 Gulf War combat veteran to depleted uranium poisoning. Children of British soldiers who fought in wars in which depleted uranium ammunition was used are at greater risk of suffering genetic diseases such as congenital malformations, commonly called "birth defects," passed on by their fathers. In a study of U.K. troops, "Overall, the risk of any malformation among pregnancies reported by men was 50% higher in Gulf War Veterans (GWV) compared with Non-GWVs."

The U.S. Army has commissioned ongoing research into potential risks of depleted uranium and other projectile weapon materials like tungsten, which the U.S. Navy has used in place of DU since 1993. Studies by the U.S. Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute conclude that moderate exposures to either depleted uranium or uranium present a significant toxicologicalthreat.

One particular subgroup of veterans which may be at higher risk comprises those who have internally retained fragments of DU from shrapnel wounds. A laboratory study on rats produced by the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute showed that, after a study period of 6 months, rats treated with depleted uranium coming from implanted pellets, comparable to the average levels in the urine of Desert Stormveterans with retained DU fragments, had developed a significant tendency to lose weight with respect to the control group. Substantial amounts of uranium were accumulating in their brainsand central nervous systems, and showed a significant reduction of neuronalactivity in the hippocampusin response to external stimuli. The conclusions of the study show that brain damage from chronic uranium intoxication is possible at lower doses than previously thought. Results from computer-based neurocognitive tests performed in 1997 showed an association between uranium in the urine and "problematic performance on automated tests assessing performance efficiency and accuracy."

In 2003 Professor Brian Spratt FRS, chairman of the Royal Society's working group on depleted uranium, said: "The question of who carries out the initial monitoring and clean-up is a political rather than scientific question," and "the coalitionneeds to acknowledge that depleted uranium is a potential hazard and make in-roads into tackling it by being open about where and how much depleted uranium has been deployed."

Since 2001, medical personnel at the Basramarker hospital in southern Iraq have reported a sharp increase in the incidence of child leukemia and genetic malformation among babies born in the decade following the Gulf War.Iraqi doctors attributed these malformations to possible long-term effects of DU, an opinion which was echoed by several newspapers But no peer-reviewed study has been undertaken in Basra. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons(ICBUW) has made a call to support an epidemiological study in the Basra region, as asked for by Iraqi doctors.

1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia

Depleted uranium (DU) ammunition of U-238
In 2001, doctors at the Serb-run hospital in Kosovska Mitrovicamarker say the number of patients suffering from malignant diseases has increased by 200% since 1998.In the same year, the World Health Organization reported that data from Kosovomarker was inconclusive and called for further studies.A 2003 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker stated that low levels of contaminate were found in drinking water and air particulate at DU penetrator impact points.The levels were stated as not a cause for alarm. Yet, Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UNEP DU projects stated, "The findings of this study stress again the importance of appropriate clean-up and civil protection measures in a post-conflict situation."

Studies indicating negligible effects

Studies in 2005 and earlier have concluded that DU ammunition has no measurable detrimental health effects.

A 1999 literature reviewconducted by the Rand Corporationstated: "No evidence is documented in the literature of cancer or any other negative health effect related to the radiation received from exposure to depleted or natural uranium, whether inhaled or ingested, even at very high doses," and a RAND report authored by the U.S. Defense department undersecretary charged with evaluating DU hazards considered the debate to be more political than scientific.

A 2001 oncologystudy concluded that "the present scientific consensus is that DU exposure to humans, in locations where DU ammunition was deployed, is very unlikely to give rise to cancer induction". Former NATO Secretary GeneralLord Robertsonstated in 2001 that "the existing medical consensus is clear. The hazard from depleted uranium is both very limited, and limited to very specific circumstances".

A 2002 study from the Australian defense ministry concluded that “there has been no established increase in mortality or morbidity in workers exposed to uranium in uranium processing industries... studies of Gulf War veterans show that, in those who have retained fragments of depleted uranium following combat related injury, it has been possible to detect elevated urinary uranium levels, but no kidney toxicity or other adverse health effects related to depleted uranium after a decade of follow-up.” Pier Roberto Danesi, then-director of the IAEAmarker Seibersdorf +Laboratory, stated in 2002 that "There is a consensus now that DU does not represent a health threat".

The International Atomic Energy Agencymarker reported in 2003 that, "based on credible scientific evidence, there is no proven link between DU exposure and increases in human cancers or other significant health or environmental impacts," although "Like other heavy metals, DU is potentially poisonous.In sufficient amounts, if DU is ingested or inhaled it can be harmful because of its chemical toxicity. High concentration could cause kidney damage." The IAEA concluded that while depleted uranium is a potential carcinogen, there is no evidence that it has been carcinogenic in humans.

A 2005 study by Sandia National Laboratories’marker Al Marshall used mathematical models to analyze potential health effects associated with accidental exposure to depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War.Marshall’s study concluded that the reports of cancer risks from DU exposure are not supported by veteran medical statistics, but Marshall did not consider reproductive health effects.

Other contamination cases

On October 4, 1992, an El Al Boeing 747-F cargo aircraft Flight 1862marker, crashed into an apartment building in Amsterdammarker.Local residents and rescue workers complained of various unexplained health issues which were being attributed to the release of hazardous materials during the crash and subsequent fires. Authorities conducted an epidemiological study in 2000 of those believed to be affected by the accident. The study concluded that there was no evidence to link depleted uranium (used as a counter balance in the plane) to any of the reported health complaints.

In 2005, uranium metalworkers at a Bethlehem plant near Buffalo, New Yorkmarker, exposed to frequent occupational uranium inhalation, were found to have some of the same patterns of symptoms as Gulf War Syndrome victims.

In 2009, a report from Fallujahmarker claimed that the use of uranium shells by USA contributed to a large increase in deformed babies and miscarriages after a battle in 2004 during the war in Iraq.

See also


External links

Scientific bodies

United Nations

Scientific reports

Other publications


Estimated DU stocks

Areva NC

Compilation of 2004 Review Information Regarding Uranium Toxicity
Body system
Human studies
Animal studies
In vitro
Elevated levels of protein excretion, urinary catalase and diuresis
Damage to Proximal convoluted tubules, necrotic cells cast from tubular epithelium, glomerular changes
No studies
Decreased performance on neurocognitive tests
Acute cholinergic toxicity; Dose-dependent accumulation in cortex, midbrain, and vermis; Electrophysiological changes in hippocampus
No studies
Increased reports of cancers
Increased urine mutagenicity and induction of tumors
Binucleated cells with micronuclei, Inhibition of cell cycle kinetics and proliferation; Sister chromatid induction, tumorigenic phenotype
No studies
Inhibition of periodontal bone formation; and alveolar wound healing
No studies
Uranium miners have more first born female children
Moderate to severe focal tubular atrophy; vacuolization of Leydig cells
No studies
No adverse health effects reported
Severe nasal congestion and hemorrage, lung lesions and fibrosis, edema and swelling, lung cancer
No studies
Vomiting, diarrhea, albuminuria
No effects seen at exposure dose
Fatty livers, focal necrosis
No studies
No exposure assessment data available
Swollen vacuolated epidermal cells, damage to hair follicles and sebaceous glands
No studies
Tissues surrounding embedded DU fragments
Elevated uranium urine concentrations
Elevated uranium urine concentrations, perturbations in biochemical and neuropsychological testing
No studies
Immune system
Chronic fatigue, rash, ear and eye infections, hair and weight loss, cough. May be due to combined chemical exposure rather than DU alone
No studies
No studies
No studies
Conjunctivitis, irritation inflammation, edema, ulceration of conjunctival sacs
No studies
No studies
Decrease in RBC count and hemoglobin concentration
No studies
Myocarditis resulting from the uranium ingestion, which ended 6 months after ingestion
No effects
No studies

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