Sanitary risks of du weapons

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APRIL 2004



APRIL 2004


Introduction. Page 5

I) History of depleted uranium ammunition. Page 6

a) The birth of nuclear arsenal. Page 6
b) Origin of depleteduranium. Page 6
c) A solution to dispose of the stocks of DU. Page 7
d) The apparition of DU on the front. Page 7

II) Effects of depleted uranium. Page 8

a) Properties of depleted uranium. Page 8
b) Environmental risks. Page 9
c) Sanitary risks. Page 10
d) Juridical statute of DU weapons. Page 12

Conclusion.Page 13

Appendixes. Page 14

Bibliography. Page 19

The radioactivity is a chemical phenomenon that exists at the natural state. From year 1896, noble physicians underlined the presence of invisible radiation given out from various substances known as radioactive, such as uranium. Discoveries were going quickly, and in 1939, the first artificialnuclear fission and chain reaction of the history demonstrated that this phenomenon was releasing an important quantity of energy. In hardly 40 years, the experimental bases of nuclear energy were laid down. From their beginning, they were used for military purposes, mainly during the arms-run of the World War Two and the Cold War. Then starting year 1951, they were used by the civil energeticindustry. During the early 90’s, after the express liberation of Kuwait by the Coalition, the World heard of a new kind of ammunitions, solution of a “clean and surgical war”: the depleted uranium ammunitions, chosen for their so efficient properties.

However, with the appearance of “secondary effects” on environment and on human health, depleted uranium became a phenomenon favouring debates. Isthere a link between these weapons and these effects? Whereas Governments dodge the questions and scrape the files in spite of a pseudo-transparency, scientists of non-governmental organizations and associations of veterans want to know the truth.

In order to try to obtain a global idea of this delicate current affair, we will answer these following questions: what is the history of theseammunitions? Which are these disparaged “secondary effects”?

I) History of depleted uranium ammunition.

a) The birth of nuclear arsenal.

The idea of using uranium-based ammunitions in battlefields is going back further than the early 90’s, when people had heard of them. In fact, this is not a current phenomenon : this idea dates back from 50 years ago, during theSecond World War.

Albert Speer, the arms minister of the 3rd Reich, appointed by Adolf Hitler in 1942, was the instigator of this idea (appendix n°1). During the summer 1943, the Allied forces intercepted the importations of tungsten, a dense metal used in the manufacture of antitank ammunitions. That is why Speer ordered to dip into the stocks of uranium. These stocks were initiallysupposed to be used for the manufacture of a nuclear bomb, but the Nazi Government gave up the project when they realised that it couldn’t be accomplished on time. In 1945 the American “Manhattan Project” led to the first nuclear explosion of history in the desert of New Mexico, which were followed by the bombardings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then, the end of the Second World War.

TheSoviet and American Governments principally employed the ex-Nazis scientists who were in advance on their time, in order to serve the arms-run of the Cold War engaged between these two blocs. Whereas the military-nuclear industry was performing, the civil-nuclear industry began to develop in 1951, with the opening of the first electronuclear power plant in the United States.

b) Origin of...