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Depleted uranium (DU; also referred to in the past as Q-metal, depletalloy or D-38) is
uranium Uranium is a chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science tha ...

uranium
with a lower content of the
fissile In nuclear engineering Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, veh ...
isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it ...
than natural uranium.: "Depleted uranium possesses only 60% of the radioactivity of natural uranium, having been 'depleted' of much of its most highly radioactive U234 and U235 isotopes." Natural uranium contains about , while the DU used by the
U.S. Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national secur ...
contains or less. The less radioactive and non-fissile constitutes the main component of depleted uranium. Uses of DU take advantage of its very high
density The density (more precisely, the volumetric mass density; also known as specific mass), of a substance is its per unit . The symbol most often used for density is ''ρ'' (the lower case Greek letter ), although the Latin letter ''D'' can also ...

density
of ( denser than
lead Lead is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metals, heavy metal that is density, denser than most common materials. Lead is Mohs scale of mineral hardness#Intermediate h ...

lead
). Civilian uses include counterweights in aircraft, radiation shielding in medical
radiation therapy Radiation therapy or radiotherapy, often abbreviated RT, RTx, or XRT, is a therapy using ionizing radiation Ionizing radiation (or ionising radiation), including nuclear radiation, consists of subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that h ...

radiation therapy
and industrial
radiography Radiography is an imaging technology, imaging technique using X-rays, gamma rays, or similar ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation to view the internal form of an object. Applications of radiography include medical radiography ("diagnos ...
equipment, and containers for transporting radioactive materials. Military uses include
armor plating Military vehicles are commonly armoured (or armored; see spelling differences) to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missile In military terminology, a missile, also known as a guided missile or guided rocket, is a missile guidanc ...
and
armor-piercing Armor-piercing shell of the APHEBC. 1. Lightweight ballistic cap; 2. Steel alloy piercing shell; 3. Desensitized bursting charge (TNT, Picric acid, Trinitrophenol, RDX...); 4. fuse (explosives), Fuse (set with delay to explode inside the target); ...
projectiles A projectile is any object thrown by the exertion of a force. It can also be defined as an object launched into the space and allowed to move free under the influence of gravity and air resistance. Although any object in motion through space (for e ...
. Most depleted uranium arises as a
by-product A by-product or byproduct is a secondary product derived from a production process, manufacturing Manufacturing is the creation or production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufac ...
of the production of
enriched uranium Enriched uranium is a type of uranium Uranium is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol U and atomic number 92. It is a silvery-grey metal in the actinide series of the periodic table. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 9 ...
for use as fuel in
nuclear reactor A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a fission nuclear chain reaction or nuclear fusion reactions. Nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and in nucle ...

nuclear reactor
s and in the manufacture of
nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics and nucl ...
s. Enrichment processes generate uranium with a higher-than-natural concentration of lower- mass-number uranium isotopes (in particular , which is the uranium isotope supporting the
fission Fission, a splitting of something into two or more parts, may refer to: Biology * Fission (biology), division of a single entity into two or more parts and the regeneration of those parts into separate entities resembling the original * Mitochondri ...

fission
chain reaction A chain reaction is a sequence of reactions where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. In a chain reaction, positive feedback Positive feedback (exacerbating feedback, self-reinforcing feedback) is a pro ...
) with the bulk of the feed ending up as depleted uranium, in some cases with mass fractions of and less than a third of those in natural uranium. Since has a much longer
half-life Half-life (symbol ''t''1⁄2) is the time required for a quantity to reduce to half of its initial value. The term is commonly used in nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents an ...
than the lighter isotopes, DU emits less alpha radiation than natural uranium. DU from
nuclear reprocessing Nuclear may refer to: Physics Relating to the nucleus of the atom: *Nuclear engineering Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, ...
has different isotopic ratios from enrichment–by-product DU, from which it can be distinguished by the presence of . DU used in US munitions has of the radioactivity of natural uranium."Properties and Characteristics of DU"
U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense
Most of the alpha radiation comes from and whereas
beta radiation A beta particle, also called beta ray or beta radiation (symbol β), is a high-energy, high-speed electron or positron emitted by the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus during the process of beta decay. There are two forms of beta decay, β− ...
comes from and that are formed within a few weeks. Trace
transuranic The transuranium elements (also known as transuranic elements) are the chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure subst ...
s (another indicator of the use of reprocessed material) have been reported to be present in some US tank armor. The use of DU in
munitions Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to incr ...
is controversial because of concerns about potential long-term health effects. Normal functioning of the
kidney The kidneys are two reddish-brown bean-shaped organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly categorized ...

kidney
,
brain A brain is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tiss ...

brain
,
liver The liver is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's t ...

liver
,
heart The heart is a cardiac muscle, muscular Organ (biology), organ in most animals, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. The pumped blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body, while carrying metabolic waste ...

heart
, and numerous other systems can be affected by exposure to uranium, a
toxic metal Metal toxicity or metal poisoning is the toxic effect of certain metals in certain forms and doses on life. Some metals are toxic when they form poisonous soluble compounds. Certain metals have no biological role, i.e. are not essential minerals, or ...
. It is only weakly
radioactive Radioactive decay (also known as nuclear decay, radioactivity, radioactive disintegration or nuclear disintegration) is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus The atomic nucleus is the small, dense region consisting of s and s ...

radioactive
because of the long radioactive half-life of (4.468 × 109 or 4,468,000,000 years) and the low amounts of (half-life about 246,000 years) and (half-life 700 million years). The
biological half-life Biological half-life (also known as elimination half-life, pharmacologic half-life) of a such as is the time it takes from its maximum concentration () to half maximum concentration in human body, and is denoted by the abbreviation t_. This is u ...
(the average time it takes for the human body to eliminate half the amount in the body) for uranium is about 15 days. The
aerosol An aerosol (abbreviation of "aero-solution") is a suspension Suspension or suspended may refer to: Science and engineering * Suspension (topology), in mathematics * Suspension (dynamical systems), in mathematics * Suspension of a ring, in mathe ...

aerosol
or
spallation Image:Spallation.gif, Spallation as a result of impact can occur with or without penetration of the impacting object. Click on image for animation. Spallation is a process in which fragments of material (spall) are ejected from a body due to im ...

spallation
frangible A material is said to be frangible if through deformation it tends to break up into fragments, rather than deforming elastically and retaining its cohesion as a single object. Common crackers are examples of frangible materials, while fresh bread ...
powder produced by impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites, leading to possible inhalation by human beings. According to an article in
Al Jazeera Al Jazeera ( ar, الجزيرة, translit-std=DIN, translit=al-jazīrah, , literally "The Island", though referring to the Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَ ...
, DU from American artillery is suspected to be one of the major causes of an increase in the general mortality rate in Iraq since 1991. The actual level of
acute Acute may refer to: Science and technology * Acute angle ** Acute triangle ** Acute, a leaf shape in the glossary of leaf morphology#acute, glossary of leaf morphology * Acute (medicine), a disease that it is of short duration and of recent onset. ...
and chronic
toxicity Toxicity is the degree to which a chemical substance or a particular mixture of substances can damage an organism. Toxicity can refer to the effect on a whole organism, such as an animal, bacteria, bacterium, or plant, as well as the effect on ...

toxicity
of DU is also controversial. Several studies using and laboratory
rodents Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Ro ...

rodents
suggest the possibility of ,
gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mecha ...

gene
tic,
reproductive Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual orga ...

reproductive
, and
neurological Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine Medicine is the Art (skill), art, science, and Praxis (process) , practice of caring for a patient and managing the d ...
effects from chronic exposure. A 2005
epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public health, and shapes policy decisions ...
review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."


History

Enriched uranium was first manufactured in the early 1940s when the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
and
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
began their
nuclear weapons A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nucl ...

nuclear weapons
programs. Later in the decade,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
and the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
began their
nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics and nucl ...
s and
nuclear power Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), ...

nuclear power
programs. Depleted uranium was originally stored as an unusable waste product (
uranium hexafluoride Uranium hexafluoride (), colloquially known as "hex" in the nuclear industry, is a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nu ...
) in the hope that improved enrichment processes could extract additional quantities of the
fissionable In nuclear engineering, fissile material is material capable of sustaining a nuclear fission chain reaction. By definition, fissile material can sustain a chain reaction with neutron The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol or , which ha ...

fissionable
U-235
isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it ...
. This re-enrichment recovery of the residual uranium-235 is now in practice in some parts of the world; e.g. in 1996 over 6000 metric tonnes were upgraded in a Russian plant. It is possible to design civilian power-generating reactors using unenriched fuel, but only about 10% of those ever built (such as the
CANDU reactor The CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) is a Canadian pressurized heavy-water reactor design used to generate electric power. The acronym refers to its deuterium Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or , also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two ...
) use that technology. Thus most civilian reactors as well as all
naval reactors Naval Reactors (NR), also known as the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, is an umbrella term for the U.S. government office that has comprehensive responsibility for the safe and reliable operation of the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."'' ...
and nuclear weapons production require fuel containing concentrated U-235 and generate depleted uranium. In the 1970s,
the Pentagon The Pentagon is the headquarters Headquarters (commonly referred to as HQ) denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the United States The United States of America ...
reported that the
Soviet military The Soviet Armed Forces, also called the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Armed Forces of the Soviet Union (russian: Вооружённые Силы Союза Советских Социалистических Рес ...
had developed
armor plating Military vehicles are commonly armoured (or armored; see spelling differences) to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missile In military terminology, a missile, also known as a guided missile or guided rocket, is a missile guidanc ...
for
Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), officially the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, commonly known as the Warsaw Pact (WP), was a collective defense Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement ...
tanks that
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
ammunition could not penetrate. The Pentagon began searching for material to make denser armor-piercing projectiles. After testing various metals,
ordnance Ordnance may refer to: Military and defense * Ordnance items in military logistics Military logistics is the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement, supply, and maintenance of military forces. In its most comprehensive sense, it is ...
researchers settled on depleted uranium. The US and NATO militaries used DU penetrator rounds in the
1991 Gulf War The Gulf War was a war waged by coalition forces The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership t ...
, the
Bosnia war The Bosnian War ( sh, Rat u Bosni i Hercegovini / Рат у Босни и Херцеговини) was an international armed conflict that took place in Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The war ...
, bombing of Serbia, the
2003 invasion of Iraq The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War The Iraq WarThe conflict is also known as the Second Gulf War or the Third Gulf War by those who consider the Iran–Iraq War the first Gulf War. The war was also called the ...
, and 2015 airstrikes on
ISIS Isis (; ''Ēse''; ; Meroitic language, Meroitic: ''Wos'' 'a''or ''Wusa'') was a major ancient Egyptian deities, goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Ol ...
in Syria. It is estimated that between 315 and 350 tons of DU were used in the 1991 Gulf War.


Production and availability

Natural uranium Natural uranium (NU, Unat) refers to uranium Uranium is a chemical element upright=1.0, 500px, The chemical elements ordered by link=Periodic table In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and ...
metal contains about , , and about . The production of
enriched uranium Enriched uranium is a type of uranium Uranium is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol U and atomic number 92. It is a silvery-grey metal in the actinide series of the periodic table. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 9 ...
using
isotope separation Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number 300px, The Rutherford–Bohr model of the hydrogen atom () or a hydrogen-like ion (). In this mod ...
creates ''depleted uranium'' containing only 0.2% to 0.4% . Because natural uranium begins with such a low percentage of , enrichment produces large quantities of depleted uranium. For example, producing of enriched uranium requires of natural uranium, and leaves about of depleted uranium having only . The
Nuclear Regulatory Commission The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency of the United States government Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group)The Independents were a group of ...
(NRC) defines ''depleted uranium'' as uranium with a percentage of the isotope that is less than by weight (se
10 CFR 40.4
. The military specifications designate that the DU used by the
U.S. Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national secur ...
(DoD) contain less than . In actuality, DoD uses only DU that contains approximately . Depleted uranium is further produced by recycling spent nuclear fuel, in which case it contains traces of
neptunium Neptunium is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

neptunium
and
plutonium Plutonium is a radioactive Radioactive decay (also known as nuclear decay, radioactivity, radioactive disintegration or nuclear disintegration) is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by radiation. A material co ...

plutonium
. Quantities are so small that they are considered to be not of serious radiological significance (even) by ECRR.


Uranium hexafluoride

Most depleted uranium is stored as
uranium hexafluoride Uranium hexafluoride (), colloquially known as "hex" in the nuclear industry, is a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nu ...
, a toxic crystalline solid, (D), in steel cylinders in open air storage yards close to enrichment plants. Each cylinder holds up to of . In the U.S. of depleted had accumulated by 1993. In 2008, in 57,122 storage cylinders were located near
Portsmouth, Ohio Portsmouth is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government, or a county town, or the place where the central administration of a Towns ...
;
Oak Ridge, Tennessee Oak Ridge is a city in Anderson County, Tennessee, Anderson and Roane County, Tennessee, Roane counties in the East Tennessee, eastern part of the U.S. state of Tennessee, about west of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, Knoxville. Oak Ridge's popula ...
; and
Paducah, Kentucky Paducah ( ) is a List of cities in Kentucky, home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River, Tennes ...

Paducah, Kentucky
. The storage of (D) presents environmental, health, and safety risks because of its chemical instability. When is exposed to water vapor in the air, it reacts with the moisture to produce ( uranyl fluoride), a solid, and (
hydrogen fluoride Hydrogen fluoride is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . This colorless gas or liquid is the principal industrial source of fluorine, often as an aqueous solution called hydrofluoric acid. It is an important feedstock in the preparation ...
), a gas, both of which are highly soluble and toxic. The uranyl fluoride solid acts to plug the leak, limiting further escape of depleted . Release of the hydrogen fluoride gas to the atmosphere is also slowed by the plug formation. Like any other uranium compound, it is radioactive, and precautions should be taken. It is also highly toxic. Uranyl fluoride is corrosive and harmful upon inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Ingestion or inhalation may be fatal. Effects of exposure may be delayed. There have been several accidents involving uranium hexafluoride in the United States, including one in which 32 workers were exposed to a cloud of and its reaction products in 1986 at a Gore, Oklahoma, commercial uranium conversion facility. One person died; while a few workers with higher exposure experienced short-term
kidney The kidneys are two reddish-brown bean-shaped organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly categorized ...

kidney
damage (e.g., protein in the urine), none of them showed lasting damage from the exposure to uranium. The U.S. government has been converting depleted to solid uranium oxides for use or disposal. Such disposal of the entire D inventory could cost anywhere from million to million.


Military applications

Depleted uranium is very dense; at 19,050 kg/m3, it is 1.67 times as dense as
lead Lead is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metals, heavy metal that is density, denser than most common materials. Lead is Mohs scale of mineral hardness#Intermediate h ...

lead
, only slightly less dense than
tungsten Tungsten, or wolfram, is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, ch ...

tungsten
and
gold Gold is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elemen ...

gold
, and 84% as dense as
osmium Osmium (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...

osmium
or
iridium Iridium is a with the Ir and 77. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white of the , iridium is considered to be the second-densest naturally occurring metal (after ) with a density of as defined by experimental . It is the most -resistant meta ...

iridium
, which are the densest known substances under standard (i.e., Earth-surface) pressures. Consequently, a DU projectile of given mass has a smaller diameter than an equivalent lead projectile, with less
aerodynamic drag In fluid dynamics In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities o ...
and deeper penetration because of a higher pressure at point of impact. DU projectiles are inherently because they become
pyrophoric A substance is pyrophoric (from grc-gre, πυροφόρος, , 'fire-bearing') if it ignites spontaneously in air at or below (for gases) or within 5 minutes after coming into contact with air (for liquids and solids). Examples are iron sulfid ...
upon impact with the target.


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 tanks built after 1998 have DU modules integrated into their
Chobham armor type to be protected by Chobham armour Image:Challenger1MBT.JPEG">300px, The British Army's Challenger 1 was the second main battle tank to use Chobham armour Chobham armour is the informal name of a composite armour developed in the 1960s at th ...
, 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.


Nuclear weapons

Depleted uranium can be used as a
tamper Tamper may refer to: *Tamper, to use a tamp A tamp is a device used to compact or flatten an Aggregate (composite), aggregate or another powdered or granular material, typically to make it resistant to further compression or simply to increase it ...

tamper
, or neutron reflector, in
fission bomb A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nuke, atomic bomb, nuclear warhead, A-bomb, or nuclear bomb) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either nuclear fission, fission (fission bomb) or from a ...
s. A high density tamper like DU makes for a longer-lasting, more energetic, and more efficient explosion.


Ammunition

Most military use of depleted uranium has been as
30 mm The 30 mm caliber is a specific size of autocannon US M242 Bushmaster 25 mm autocannon mounted on an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle">M2_Bradley.html" ;"title="M242 Bushmaster 25 mm autocannon mounted on an M2 Bradley">M242 Bushmast ...

30 mm
ordnance, primarily the 30 mm PGU-14/B armour-piercing incendiary round from the
GAU-8 Avenger The General Electric General Electric Company (GE) is an American Multinational corporation, multinational Conglomerate (company), conglomerate incorporated in New York City and headquartered in Boston. , the company operates through the foll ...

GAU-8 Avenger
cannon of the
A-10 Thunderbolt II The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twinjet, twin turbofan engine, straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild Aircraft, Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force (USAF). It is commonly referred to by t ...

A-10 Thunderbolt II
used by the
United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosph ...

United States Air Force
. 25 mm DU rounds have been used in the
M242 The M242 Bushmaster chain gun is a 25 mm (25×137mm) single-barrel chain-driven autocannon US M242 Bushmaster 25 mm autocannon mounted on an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle">M2_Bradley.html" ;"title="M242 Bushmaster 25 mm autocannon mo ...
gun mounted on the U.S. Army's and the
Marine Corps Marines, or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate in in support of naval operations. Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (reflecting the natu ...
's
LAV-25 The LAV-25 (Light Armored Vehicle) is an eight-wheeled amphibious Amphibious means able to use either land or water. In particular it may refer to: * ''Amphibious'' (film), a 2010 film * Amphibious aircraft An amphibious aircraft or amphi ...
. The U.S. Marine Corps uses DU in the 25 mm PGU-20 round fired by the
GAU-12 Equalizer The General Dynamics GAU-12/U Equalizer is a five-barrel 25 mm Gatling-type rotary cannon. The GAU-12/U is used by the United States, Italy and Spain, which mount the weapon in their attack jets such as the AV-8B Harrier II, airborne gunships ...
cannon of the
AV-8B Harrier The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a single-engine Attack aircraft, ground-attack aircraft that constitutes the second generation of the Harrier Jump Jet family, capable of V/STOL, vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/S ...
, and also in the 20 mm
M197 The M197 electric cannon is a 20 mm three-barreled electric Gatling-type rotary cannon used by the United States military The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America The United States of Am ...
gun mounted on AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships. The United States Navy's Phalanx CIWS's M61 Vulcan Gatling gun used 20 mm armor-piercing penetrator rounds with discarding plastic sabot (firearms), sabots and a core made using depleted uranium, later changed to
tungsten Tungsten, or wolfram, is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, ch ...

tungsten
. Another use of depleted uranium is in kinetic energy penetrators, anti-armor rounds such as the 120 mm sabot rounds fired from the British Challenger 1, Challenger 2, M1 Abrams, M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams. Kinetic energy penetrator rounds consist of a long, relatively thin penetrator surrounded by a discarding sabot. Staballoys are metal alloys of depleted uranium with a very small proportion of other metals, usually titanium or molybdenum. One formulation has a composition of 99.25% by mass of depleted uranium and 0.75% by mass of titanium. Staballoys are approximately 1.67 times as dense as lead and are designed for use in kinetic energy penetrator armor-piercing ammunition. The US Army uses DU in an alloy with around 3.5% titanium. Depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is self-sharpening and flammable. 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 combustion, ignite. 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 Abrams tank. The Soviet/Russian military has used DU ammunition in tank main gun ammunition since the late 1970s, mostly for the 115 mm guns in the T-62 tank and the 125 mm guns in the T-64, T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks. 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 hand grenades, and land mines, but those applications have been discontinued, according to Alliant Techsystems. The US Navy used DU in its 20 mm Phalanx CIWS guns, but switched in the late 1990s to armor-piercing tungsten. Only the US and the UK have acknowledged using DU weapons. 782,414 DU rounds were fired during the 1991 war in Iraq, mostly by US forces. In a three-week period of conflict in Iraq during 2003, it was estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes of depleted uranium munitions were used. More than 300,000 DU rounds were fired during the 2003 war, the vast majority by US troops.


Legal status in weapons

In 1996, the International Court of Justice (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 law on 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 materiel and kill soldiers through kinetic energy. The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of 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 rights and 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 Rights resolution 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 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Genocide Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions including Protocol I, the Convention on Conventional Weapons of 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''": Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia led a committee of staff lawyers to investigate possible treaty prohibitions against the use of DU in weapons. Their findings were that: According to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, depleted uranium does not meet the legal definitions of nuclear, radiological, toxin, chemical, poison or incendiary weapons, as far as DU ammunition is not designed nor intended to kill or wound by its chemical or radiological effects.


Requests for a moratorium on military use

A number of anti-war activists specializing in international humanitarian law have questioned the legality of the continued use of depleted uranium weapons, highlighting that the effects may breach the Distinction (law), principle of distinction (between civilians and military personnel). Some states and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, a coalition of more than 155 non-governmental organizations, have asked for a ban on the production and military use of depleted uranium weapons. The European Parliament has repeatedly passed resolutions requesting an immediate Moratorium (law), moratorium on the further use of depleted uranium ammunition, but
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
and
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
– the only European 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 unsubstantiated. In 2007, France, Britain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic 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 the United States 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 Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organization (WHO). The IAEA and WHO evidence differed little from previous statements on the issue.Staff
UN Secretary General Publishes Report on Uranium Weapons
17 September 2008
The report was largely split between states concerned about depleted uranium's use, such as Finland, Cuba, Japan, Serbia, Argentina, and predominantly NATO 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 See draft XIV and Annex XIII 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 Norway, 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 Israel and the United States (both of which voted against in 2007), while as before China was absent for the vote, and Russia abstained. On 21 June 2009, Belgium 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 Parliament passed 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. In November 2010 the Irish Senate passed a bill seeking to outlaw depleted uranium weapons, but it lapsed before approval by the Dáil Éireann, Dáil. In December 2010, 148 states supported a United Nations' General Assembly resolution calling for the states that use depleted uranium weapons in conflict to reveal where the weapons have been fired when asked to do so by the country upon whose territory they have been used. In April 2011, the Congress of Costa Rica passed a law prohibiting uranium weapons in its territories, becoming the second country in the world to do so. In December 2012, 155 states supported a United Nations' General Assembly resolution that recalled that, because of the ongoing uncertainties over the long-term environmental impacts of depleted uranium identified by the United Nations Environment Programme, states should adopt a precautionary approach to its use. In December 2014, 150 states supported a United Nations' General Assembly resolution encouraging states to provide assistance to states affected by the use of depleted uranium weapons, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material. In contrast to the previous biennial resolutions, Germany moved to an abstention from supporting to the resolutions. Prior to the vote, in a report to the United Nations Secretary General requested by 2012's resolution published in June 2014, Iraq had called for a global treaty ban on depleted uranium weapons.


Civilian applications

Depleted uranium has a very high density and is primarily used as shielding material for other radioactive material, and as Sailing ballast, ballast. Examples include sailboat keels, as counterweights and as shielding in industrial
radiography Radiography is an imaging technology, imaging technique using X-rays, gamma rays, or similar ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation to view the internal form of an object. Applications of radiography include medical radiography ("diagnos ...
cameras.


Shielding in industrial radiography cameras

Industrial radiography cameras include a very high activity gamma radiation source (typically Iridium-192#Iridium-192, Ir-192 with an activity above 10 TBq). Depleted uranium is often used in the cameras as a shield to protect individuals from the gamma source. Typically, the uranium shield is supported and enclosed in polyurethane foam for thermal, mechanical and oxidation protection.


Coloring in consumer products

Consumer product uses have included incorporation into dental porcelain, used for false teeth to simulate the fluorescence of natural teeth, and uranium-bearing reagents used in chemistry laboratories (e.g. uranyl acetate, used in analytical chemistry and as a staining, stain in electron microscopy). Uranium (both depleted uranium and natural uranium) was widely used as a coloring matter for Fiestaware, porcelain and Uranium glass, glass in 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 Vitreous enamel, enamel powder that was being produced in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
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 for stabilizing wings and control surfaces (such as the Boeing 747, Boeing 747-100) may contain between of DU. This application is controversial because the DU might enter the environment if the aircraft crashes. The metal can also oxidation, oxidize to a fine powder in a fire. Its use has been phased out in many newer aircraft. Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas discontinued using DU counterweights in the 1980s. Depleted uranium was released during the crash of El Al Flight 1862 on 4 October 1992, in which was lost, but a case study concluded that there was no evidence to link depleted uranium from the plane to any health problems. DU counterweights manufactured with cadmium plating are considered non-hazardous as long as the plating is intact.


US NRC general license

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations a
10 CFR 40.25
establish a general license for the use of depleted uranium contained in industrial products or devices for mass-volume applications. 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.


Sailboat keel

Pen Duick, ''Pen Duick VI'', a boat designed by and used for racing, was equipped with a keel of depleted uranium. The benefit is that, because of the very high density of uranium, the keel could be thinner for a given weight, and so have less resistance than a normal keel. It was later replaced by a standard lead keel.


Sampling calorimeters for detectors in high-energy particle physics

Depleted uranium has been used in a number of calorimeter (particle physics)#Homogeneous versus sampling, sampling calorimeters (such as in the D0 and ZEUS detectors) because of its high density and natural radioactivity.


Health considerations

Normal functioning of the
kidney The kidneys are two reddish-brown bean-shaped organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly categorized ...

kidney
,
brain A brain is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tiss ...

brain
,
liver The liver is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's t ...

liver
,
heart The heart is a cardiac muscle, muscular Organ (biology), organ in most animals, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. The pumped blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body, while carrying metabolic waste ...

heart
, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure because, in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a
toxic metal Metal toxicity or metal poisoning is the toxic effect of certain metals in certain forms and doses on life. Some metals are toxic when they form poisonous soluble compounds. Certain metals have no biological role, i.e. are not essential minerals, or ...
, although less toxicity, toxic than other heavy metals, such as arsenic and mercury (element), mercury. It is weakly radioactive but is 'persistently' so because of its long
half-life Half-life (symbol ''t''1⁄2) is the time required for a quantity to reduce to half of its initial value. The term is commonly used in nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents an ...
. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry states that: "to be exposed to radiation from uranium, you have to eat, drink, or breathe it, or get it on your skin." If DU particles do enter an individual, the type of danger presented—toxic vs. radiological—and the organ most likely to be affected depend on the solubility of the particles.. Briefly, inhaled and insoluble means that the DU particles will stick around in the lungs and attendant lymph nodes, presenting a radiological risk; highly soluble means those particles are off to the kidneys, where toxicity is the issue. In military conflicts involving DU munitions, the major concern is inhalation of DU particles in aerosols arising from the impacts of DU-enhanced projectiles with their targets. When depleted uranium munitions penetrate armor or burn, they create depleted uranium oxides in the form of dust that can be inhaled or contaminate wounds. The Institute of Nuclear Technology-Radiation Protection of Attiki, Greece, 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". The use of DU in incendiary ammunition is controversial because of potential adverse health effects and its release into the environment. The
U.S. Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national secur ...
claims that no human cancer of any type has been seen as a result of exposure to either natural or depleted uranium. Militaries have long had risk-reduction procedures for their troops to follow, and studies are in consistent agreement that veterans who used DU-enhanced munitions have not suffered, so far, from an increased risk of cancer (see the Gulf War and Balkans sections below). The effects of DU on civilian populations are, however, a topic of intense and ongoing controversy. As early as 1997, Royal Army Medical Corps, British Army doctors warned the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence that exposure to depleted uranium increased the risk of developing lung, lymph and brain cancer, and recommended a series of safety precautions. According to a report issued summarizing the advice of the doctors, "Inhalation of insoluble uranium dioxide dust will lead to accumulation in the lungs with very slow clearance—if any. ... Although chemical toxicity is low, there may be localised radiation damage of the lung leading to cancer." The report warns that "All personnel ... should be aware that uranium dust inhalation carries a long-term risk ... [the dust] has been shown to increase the risks of developing lung, lymph and brain cancers." In 2003, the Royal Society called, again, for urgent attention to be paid to the possible health and environmental impact of depleted uranium, and added its backing to the United Nations Environment Programme's call for a scientific assessment of sites struck with depleted uranium..
The article quotes Professor Brian Spratt of the Royal Society's DU working group: "It is highly unsatisfactory to deploy a large amount of material that is weakly radioactive and chemically toxic without knowing how much soldiers and civilians have been exposed to."
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.Williams, M. (9 February 2004
"First Award for Depleted Uranium Poisoning Claim,"
''The Herald Online,'' (Edinburgh: Herald Newspapers, Ltd.)
Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (Spring, 2004

''CADU News 17''
Also, a 2005
epidemiology Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public health, and shapes policy decisions ...
review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU." Studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents continue to suggest the possibility of ,
gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mecha ...

gene
tic,
reproductive Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual orga ...

reproductive
, and
neurological Neurology (from el, νεῦρον (neûron), "string, nerve" and the suffix -logia, "study of") is a branch of medicine Medicine is the Art (skill), art, science, and Praxis (process) , practice of caring for a patient and managing the d ...
effects from chronic exposure.


Chemical toxicity

The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is identical to that of natural uranium and about a million times greater ''in vivo'' than DU's radiological hazard,. with the kidney considered to be the main target organ.. 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 Fragmentation (weaponry), shrapnel contamination. 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 (skin), absorption, Distribution (pharmacology), distribution, translocation, Clearance (medicine), elimination and the resulting toxicity. For example, metallic uranium is less toxic compared to hexavalent uranium(VI) uranyl compounds 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 The liver is an organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's t ...

liver
, spleen, and kidneys. The World Health Organization has established a daily "tolerated intake" of soluble uranium salts for the general public of body weight, or for a adult. epidemiology, Epidemiological studies and toxicology, toxicological tests on laboratory animals point to it as being immunotoxin, immunotoxic, teratogenesis, teratogenic, neurotoxic, with carcinogenic and leukaemia, leukemogenic potential. A 2005 report by epidemiologists concluded: "the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in 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. Violently burning uranium droplets produce a gaseous vapor comprising about half of the uranium in their original mass. Uranyl ion contamination in uranium oxides has been detected in the residue of DU munitions fires. Approximately of natural uranium, on average, exist in the human body as a result of normal intake of water, food and air. Most is in the skeleton. The biochemistry of depleted uranium is the same as natural uranium.


Radiological hazards

The primary radiation danger from pure depleted uranium is due to alpha particles, which do not travel far through air, and do not penetrate clothing. However, in a matter of a month or so, a sample of pure depleted uranium will generate small amounts of thorium-234 and protactinium-234, which emit the more penetrating beta particles at almost the same rate as the uranium emits alpha particles. This is because uranium-238 decays directly to thorium-234, which with a half-life of 24 days decays to protactinium-234, which in turn decays in a matter of hours to the long-lived uranium-234. A quasi-steady state is therefore reached within a few multiples of 24 days. Available evidence suggests that the radiation risk is small relative to the chemical hazard. Surveying the veteran-related evidence pertaining to the Gulf War, a 2001 editorial in the ''BMJ'' concluded that it was not possible to justify claims of radiation-induced lung cancer and leukaemia in veterans of that conflict. While agreeing with the editorial's conclusion, a reply noted that its finding in the negative was guaranteed, given that "global dose estimates or results of mathematical modelling are too inaccurate to be used as dose values for an individual veteran", and that, as of April 2001, no practical method of measuring the expected small doses that each individual veteran would receive had been suggested..
Mould's suggestion was electron paramagnetic resonance dosimetry using tooth enamel. He also wrote that the US National Institute of Standards and Technology was able, using this method, to measure doses as low as 20 mSv, and that, if it were asked to, the NIST would be able to get involved, meaning at least one centre could help undertake a screening programme for veterans.
The author of the reply, a radiation scientist, went on to suggest a method that had been used several times before, including after the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Despite the widespread use of DU in the Iraq War, at least a year after the conflict began, testing for UK troops was still only in the discussion phase., which found that perhaps a quarter of all UK troops would have been interested in undergoing DU-related monitoring, although "the desire for DU screening is more closely linked to current health status rather than plausible exposure to DU."

Confusingly, reports that "testing is now available to all troops that served in Iraq", and does not say if this is testing à la Mould. The Royal Society Working Group on the Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Munitions (RSDUWG) concluded in 2002 that there were "very low" health risks associated with the use of depleted uranium, though also ventured that, "[i]n extreme conditions and under worst-case assumptions" lung and kidney damage could occur, and that in "worst-case scenarios high local levels of uranium could occur in food or water that could have adverse effects on the kidney". In 2003, the Royal Society issued another urgent call to investigate the actual health and environmental impact of depleted uranium. The same year, a cohort study of Gulf War veterans found no elevated risks of cancer generally, nor of any specific cancers in particular, though recommended follow up studies. According to the World Health Organization, a Ionizing radiation, radiation Dose (biochemistry), dose from it would be about 60% of that from purified natural uranium with the same mass; the radiological dangers are lower because of its longer half-life and the removal of the more radioactive isotopes.


Gulf War syndrome and soldier complaints

Since 1991, the year the Gulf War ended, veterans and their families voiced concern about subsequent health problems. In 1999, an assessment of the first 1,000 veterans involved in the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence's Gulf War medical assessment programme found "no evidence" of a single illness, physical or mental, that would explain the pattern of symptoms observed in the group. Nevertheless, in 1999, MEDACT petitioned for the World Health Organization, WHO to conduct an investigation into illnesses in veterans and Iraqi civilians. A major 2006 review of peer-reviewed literature by a US Institute of Medicine committee concluded that, "[b]ecause the symptoms vary greatly among individuals", they do not point to a syndrome unique to Gulf War veterans, though their report conceded that the lack of objective pre-deployment health data meant definitive conclusions were effectively impossible.. The quote is of Lynn Goldman, who chaired the IOM committee that carried out the review.

notes that "despite clear evidence of an increase in symptom burden and a decrease in well being" among Gulf War veterans, "exhaustive clinical and laboratory based scientific research has failed to document many reproducible biomedical abnormalities in this group. Likewise, there has been no evidence of an increase in disease related mortality". Simon Wessely praised the IOM's review, and noted that, despite its central conclusion that no novel syndrome existed, its other findings made it "equally clear that service in the Gulf war did aversely affect health in some personnel".. The quote is of Wessely himself. Aside from the lack of baseline data to guide analysis of the veterans' postwar health, because no detailed health screening was carried out when the veterans entered service, another major stumbling block with some studies, like the thousand-veteran one, is that the subjects are self-selected, rather than a random sample, making general conclusions impossible. Increased rates of immune system disorders 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 25 mm cannon rounds on a large scale for the first time in the Gulf War. Veterans of the conflicts in the Persian Gulf, 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 as 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%: 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. Looking at the risk of children of UK Gulf War veterans suffering genetic diseases such as congenital malformations, commonly called "birth defects", one study found that the overall risk of any malformation was 50% higher in Gulf War veterans as compared to other veterans. 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 toxicology, toxicological threat. 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 "Multinational force in Iraq, the coalition needs 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." A 2008 review of all relevant articles appearing in the peer-reviewed journals on MEDLINE through to the end of 2007, including multiple cohort studies of veterans, found no consistent evidence of excess risks of neoplasms that could have some link to DU, and that "[t]he overall incidence of cancers is not increased in the cohort studies of Gulf war and Balkans veterans". Though a more comprehensive assessment is possible, a 2011 update on a cancer scare regarding Italian soldiers who had served in the Balkans found lower than expected incidence rates for all cancers, a finding "consistent with lacking evidence of an increased cancer incidence among troops of other countries deployed in the areas of Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where armour-penetrating depleted uranium shells have been used." One particular subgroup of veterans that 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 Storm veterans 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 Human brain, brains and central nervous systems, and showed a significant reduction of neurone, neuronal activity in the hippocampus in 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." A February 18, 2021 report titled "Resolving whether inhalation of depleted uranium contributed to Gulf War Illness using high-sensitivity mass spectrometry” by Randall R. Parrish and Robert W. Haley concluded that uranium from exploding munitions did not lead to Gulf War illness (GWI) in veterans deployed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The report was based on a study using high-precision multicollector mass spectrometry for the first time in such a study. Their report states their study found no differences in secretion of uranium isotopic ratios from those meeting the standard-case definitions of GWI and control veterans without GWI. The researchers say that the most likely remaining causes for GWI are widespread low-level exposure to sarin nerve gas released by the destruction of Iraqi chemical weapons storage facilities in January 1991. This was possibly compounded by the use of anti-nerve agent medications and the use of pesticides to prevent insect-borne diseases in coalition forces.


Iraqi population

Since 2001, medical personnel working for the Iraqi state health service controlled by Saddam Hussein at the Basra 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 that was echoed by several newspapers.Elizabeth Neuffe
Iraqis Trace Surge in Cancer to US Bombings
''Boston Globe'' 26 January 2003, Page: A11 Section: National/Foreign
In 2004, Iraq had the highest mortality rate due to leukemia of any country. In 2003, the Royal Society called for Western militaries to disclose where and how much DU they had used in Iraq so that rigorous, and hopefully conclusive, studies could be undertaken out in affected areas.. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) likewise urged that an epidemiological study be made in the Basra region, as asked for by Iraqi doctors, but no peer-reviewed study has yet been undertaken in Basra. A medical survey, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Human sex ratio, Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009" published in July 2010, states that the "...increases in cancer and birth defects...are alarmingly high" and that infant mortality 2009/2010 has reached 13.6%. The group compares the dramatic increase, five years after wartime exposure in 2004, with the lymphoma that Italian peacekeepers developed after the Balkan wars and the increased cancer risk in certain parts of Sweden because of the Chernobyl disaster, Chernobyl fallout. The origin and time of introduction of the Carcinogen, carcinogenic agent causing the genetics, genetic Stress (biology), stress the group will address in a separate report. The report mentions depleted uranium as one "potentially relevant exposure" but makes no conclusions on the source. Four studies in the second half of 2012—one of which described the people of Fallujah as having "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied"—renewed calls for the US and UK to investigate the possible links between their military assault on the city in 2004 and the explosion in deformities, cancers, and other serious health problems. Despite the known use of depleted uranium by allied forces, no depleted uranium has been found in soil samples taken from Fallujah.


The Balkans

In 2001, the World Health Organization reported that data from Kosovo was inconclusive and called for further studies. That same year, governments of several European countries, particularly Italy, reported an increase in illnesses and developments of cancers among veterans that served in Balkan peacekeeping missions. A 2003 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that low levels of contaminant 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." A team of Italian scientists from the University of Siena reported in 2005 that, although DU was "clearly" added to the soil in the study area, "the phenomenon was very limited spatially and the total uranium concentrations fell within the natural range of the element in soils. Moreover, the absolute uranium concentrations indicate that there was no contamination of the earthworm species studied." In 2018, Serbia set up a commission of inquiry into the consequences of the use of depleted uranium during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in southern Serbia and its link to the rise of diseases and tumors among citizens, particularly in young children born after 1999. NATO has repeatedly claimed that depleted uranium found in the ammunition used in the 1999 bombardments cannot be linked to adverse health effects.


Okinawa, Japan

Between 1995 and 1996, U.S. Marine McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, AV-8B Harrier jets accidentally fired more than 1500 DU rounds at the Tori Shima gunnery range but the military did not notify the Japanese government until January 1997.


Sardinia, Italy

Depleted uranium has been named as a possible contributing factor to a high incidence of birth defects and cancer near the Salto di Quirra weapons testing range on the Italian island of Sardinia.


Contamination as a result of the Afghan War

The Canadian Uranium Medical Research Centre obtained urine samples from bombed civilian areas in Jalalabad that showed concentrations of of undepleted uranium, far higher than the typical concentration in the British population of ≈.


Remscheid, Germany

On December 8, 1988, an
A-10 Thunderbolt II The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twinjet, twin turbofan engine, straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild Aircraft, Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force (USAF). It is commonly referred to by t ...

A-10 Thunderbolt II
attack jet of the
United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosph ...

United States Air Force
crashed onto a residential area in the city of Remscheid, West Germany. The aircraft crashed into the upper floor of an apartment complex. In addition to the pilot, five people were killed. Fifty others were injured, many of them seriously. When the number of cancer cases in the vicinity of the accident rose disproportionately in the years after, suspicion rose that the depleted uranium ballast in the jet may have been the cause. This was denied by the US military. However, 70 tons of top soil from the accident scene was removed and taken away to a depot. Also, film material taken during the top-soil removal show radiation warning signs. 120 residents and rescue workers reported skin diseases. Medical diagnosis concluded that these symptoms related to toxic irritative Dermatitis.


Studies indicating negligible effects

Studies in 2005 and earlier have concluded that DU ammunition has no measurable detrimental health effects. A 1999 literature review conducted by the Rand Corporation stated: "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 oncology study 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 General George Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, Lord Robertson stated 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 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Seibersdorf +Laboratory, stated in 2002 that "There is a consensus now that DU does not represent a health threat". The IAEA 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 Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories' 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 his analysis nor by veteran medical statistics. Marshall also examined possible genetic effects due to radiation from depleted uranium. Chemical effects, including potential reproductive issues, associated with depleted uranium exposure were discussed in some detail in a subsequent journal paper.


Atmospheric contamination as a result of military actions

Elevated radiation levels consistent with very low level atmospheric depleted uranium contamination have been found in air samples taken by the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment at several monitoring sites in Britain. These elevated readings appear to coincide with Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, and the Shock and Awe bombing campaign at the start of the Second Gulf War.


Other contamination cases

On 4 October 1992, an El Al Boeing 747, Boeing 747-F cargo aircraft (El Al Flight 1862, Flight 1862) crashed into an apartment building in Amsterdam. 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 counterbalance weights on the elevators of the plane) to any of the reported health complaints.


Safety and environmental issues

About 95% of the depleted uranium produced until now is stored as
uranium hexafluoride Uranium hexafluoride (), colloquially known as "hex" in the nuclear industry, is a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nu ...
, (D)UF6, in steel cylinders in open air yards close to enrichment plants. Each cylinder contains up to 12.7 tonnes (or 14 US tons) of UF6. In the U.S. alone, 560,000 tonnes of depleted UF6 had accumulated by 1993. In 2005, 686,500 tonnes in 57,122 storage cylinders were located near
Portsmouth, Ohio Portsmouth is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government, or a county town, or the place where the central administration of a Towns ...
,
Oak Ridge, Tennessee Oak Ridge is a city in Anderson County, Tennessee, Anderson and Roane County, Tennessee, Roane counties in the East Tennessee, eastern part of the U.S. state of Tennessee, about west of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, Knoxville. Oak Ridge's popula ...
, and
Paducah, Kentucky Paducah ( ) is a List of cities in Kentucky, home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River, Tennes ...

Paducah, Kentucky
. The long-term storage of DUF6 presents environmental, health, and safety risks because of its chemical instability. When UF6 is exposed to moist air, it reacts with the water in the air and produces UO2F2 (uranyl fluoride) and HF (hydrogen fluoride), both of which are highly soluble and toxic. Storage cylinders must be regularly inspected for signs of corrosion and leaks. The estimated lifetime of the steel cylinders is measured in decades. There have been several accidents involving uranium hexafluoride in the United States. The vulnerability of DUF6 storage cylinders to terrorist attack is apparently not the subject of public reports. However, the U.S. government has been converting DUF6 to solid uranium oxides for disposal. Disposing of the whole DUF6 inventory could cost anywhere from 15 to 450 million dollars.


See also

*
CANDU reactor The CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) is a Canadian pressurized heavy-water reactor design used to generate electric power. The acronym refers to its deuterium Deuterium (or hydrogen-2, symbol or , also known as heavy hydrogen) is one of two ...
, commercial power reactors that can use unenriched uranium fuel * Environmental impact of war * Traveling wave reactor - a reactor that uses depleted uranium for fuel


References


Notes


Bibliography

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External links

Scientific bodies * U
Health Physics Society
;United Nations
"Human rights and weapons of mass destruction, or with indiscriminate effect, or of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering"
(The UN 2002 report)
Depleted Uranium and the IAEA
;Scientific reports
ATSDR – Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (CSEM): Uranium Toxicity
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
"Depleted Uranium in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Postconflict Assessment"
by UN Environment Programme
"Radiological Conditions in Areas of Kuwait With Residues of Depleted Uranium"
by International Atomic Energy Agency
"Technical Report on Capacity-building for the Assessment of Depleted Uranium in Iraq"
by UN Environment Programme
"A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses"
by RAND
Depleted Uranium
article from the Royal Society
An Analysis of Uranium Dispersal and Health Effects Using a Gulf War Case Study
by Sandia National Laboratories
Depleted Uranium Human Health Fact Sheet
by Argonne National Laboratory Environmental Assessment Division
Depleted uranium (DU) normative value pilot study: levels of uranium in urine samples from the general population
by AD Jones, BG Miller S Walker, J Anderson, AP Colvin, PA Hutchison, CA Soutar. IOM Research Report TM/05/03
A normative study of levels of uranium in the urine of personnel in the British Forces
by BG Miller, AP Colvin, PA Hutchison, H Tait, S Dempsey, D Lewis, CA Soutar. IOM Research Report TM/05/08
Opinion on the environmental and health risks posed by depleted uranium
by the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) {{Nuclear Technology Depleted uranium, Aftermath of war Element toxicology Environmental impact of war Medical controversies Nuclear materials, Uranium, Depleted Suspected teratogens Uranium Vehicle armour Ammunition