A January 2000 Department of Energy letter to the Pentagon notes that the depleted uranium the U.S. uses for itsarmor-piercing weapons contains "traces of plutonium." NATO officials are meeting today in Brussels to address thecontinuing crisis over the use of depleted weapons in the Balkans. Although several European nations have linked theweapons to deaths from cancer, NATO and the US insist that the radioactivity in depleted uranium is too mild to beharmful.
But the presence of plutonium in the munitions is alarming. Plutonium is a highly carcinogenic substance, even inminute amounts. If the DU, which made from reprocessed uranium from nuclear reactors contains plutonium there islittle doubt that it is a serious threat to the health of both soldiers and civilians. The danger is aggravated bythe fact that plutonium is relatively difficult to detect once it is outside of secure, well-instrumentedfacilities, or once it has been incorporated into the body.
The US fired about 40,000 rounds of armor-piercing depleted uranium ammunition in the Balkans and Kosovo duringmilitary interventions in 1994-95 and 1999. In Iraq, the US fired off a million rounds.
- Andreas Zumach, reporter for German media outlets.
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