Saturday, 28 June 2014

Iraq’s Depleted Uranium Threat


The ongoing refusal by the United States to release targeting information continues to hinder the assessment and management of DU in Iraq. The Dutch military contributed a few thousand troops to the Coalition Forces in Iraq, and peacekeepers in Kosovo, and raised alarms over contamination in 2001 and 2006.

A handful of U.S. targeting coordinates held by the Dutch Ministry of Defense, and released after a Freedom of Information Act request, show that U.S. war planes used DU weapons against a far wider range of targets and sites than previously suspected, including Iraqi troops. The U.S. and British governments have long asserted that DU is only for use against armored vehicles. They have often been called “tank busters.”

Depleted Uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment for reactor fuel and H-bombs, is categorized as an intermediate-level radioactive waste; contaminated rubble and scrap metal are considered low-level radioactive waste. The Dutch study finds that international guidelines for dealing with both kinds of waste ¾ from the International Commission on Radiological Protection ¾ were ignored and that the Iraqi government did not have the technical capacity to safely manage such contamination.

Unlike anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war, no treaty currently obliges DU users to help clean-up after the war. However, civil radiation protection standards place the responsibility firmly at the foot of the polluters.

Low estimates suggest that at least 440,000 kilograms (488 tons) of DU was fired by the United States in both Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003. Civilians living near contaminated sites, scrap-yard workers, Iraqi doctors and researchers have repeatedly voiced concerns over the effects of DU on health and the environment.

Hans von Sponeck, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN humanitarian coördinator for Iraq, told the Guardian last October, “There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war.”
http://consortiumnews.com/2014/06/25/iraqs-depleted-uranium-threat/

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, June 28th, 2014.]

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