European Parliament SITTING OF TUESDAY I, 9 APRIL 2002
BURNING 'DEPLETED' URANIUM:
AN ENDLESS MEDICAL DISASTER
Issues on the Use and Effects of Depleted Uranium Weapons
SITTING OF TUESDAY I, 9 APRIL 2002
Defence / armaments (DU in Afghanistan)
Lannoye (Verts/ALE). - Monsieur le Président, je voudrais évoquer
une question qui relève des deux politiques
qui font l'objet du débat de cet après-midi. Il s'agit de la problématique liée à l'utilisation d'armes et de munitions à
Je rappelle que le 15 janvier 2001, le Parlement européen a voté
une résolution demandant l'adoption d'un
moratoire sur l'utilisation de ces armes et munitions. Récemment, le 27 mars 2002, le programme des Nations
unies pour l'environnement publiait les résultats d'une étude portant sur six sites touchés par des munitions à
l'uranium appauvri en Serbie et au Monténégro pendant la guerre des Balkans de 1999.
L'étude confirme une contamination générale pour
cinq des six sites concernés; pour deux de ces sites, on note
la présence de particules d'uranium appauvri dans l'air avoisinant. Les résultats des mesures montrent que les
poussières d'uranium appauvri ont été largement dispersées dans l'environnement à la suite de l'impact de ces
Même si le niveau de pollution radioactive est considéré
comme faible par le programme des Nations unies pour
l'environnement, il n'en reste pas moins que cette pollution confirme les risques qu'une utilisation d'armes et de
munitions à l'uranium appauvri font courir aux militaires, bien entendu, mais aussi aux populations civiles, pour
plusieurs générations sans doute.
Aujourd'hui, même si aucune information officielle ne le confirme,
de nombreux éléments accréditent la thèse
selon laquelle une partie importante du territoire afghan massivement bombardé a été contaminée par l'uranium
appauvri: déclaration du Secrétaire d'État Romsfeld évoquant un site contaminé, inquiétude exprimée par des
scientifiques pakistanais et surtout confirmation de l'usage de bombes téléguidées avec pénétrateurs en métal
très dense, probablement de l'uranium appauvri.
Selon nos informations, le PNUE devrait entamer, dans les prochaines
semaines, une étude relative à l'impact de
la guerre sur l'environnement. Des questions demeurent cependant que je voudrais poser au Conseil: le Conseil
envisage-t-il de prendre des mesures particulières pour protéger les troupes et les missions humanitaires sur le
terrain, en Afghanistan? Que pense le Conseil de l'utilisation à long terme de ce type de munitions et d'armes,
sachant qu'il s'agit d'armes à effet indiscriminé touchant à la fois les populations civiles et les militaires?
Lannoye (Verts/ALE). - Ce sera très bref Monsieur le Président,
je n'ai pas eu de réponse à mes questions
concernant les armes et munitions à uranium appauvri. Est-ce que je pourrais avoir confirmation par le Président
du Conseil de ce qu'il n'est pas en mesure de me répondre ?
President. - I think he is willing to answer your question. I cannot
answer as to whether or not he is able to give you
Trillo-Figueroa, Consejo. - Señor Presidente, Señoría,
discúlpeme, pero la velocidad que imprime el tiempo y
que sus Señorías manejan tan adecuadamente me ha impedido contestarle. Voy a hacerlo con mucho gusto.
En primer lugar, tengo que decirle que no coinciden nuestras informaciones
con las que ha manejado su Señoría.
Tengo información, que no importa desclasificar en este momento, en la que se asegura que no se ha utilizado
munición con uranio empobrecido en Afganistán y así también lo han indicado las unidades con equipos
detectantes NBQ en el propio Afganistán, dentro de la ISAF.
En segundo lugar y con respecto a su pregunta sobre qué medidas
de protección se habían tomado: aparte de ir
dotadas con los equipos de detección NBQ, las unidades que los distintos países hemos desplazado, bien sea a
Kabul, bien -como en el caso español-también a Bagran, las unidades médicas observan unas reglas de
conducta muy precisas y llevan a cabo un seguimiento constante, tanto de ese tipo de posibles lesiones para la
salud, cuanto de riesgos que pudieran devenir de la situación interna del propio país o de alguna resistencia.
En tercer lugar, tengo que recordarle que la Presidencia belga inició
un estudio, que continúa la Presidencia
española, sobre las medidas más adecuadas para garantizar la salud de las tropas. Y, en último lugar, Señoría,
tengo que decirle que el comité científico que en España estudió el problema -y fueron científicos independientes
de carácter universitario y clínico- garantizó que no podía establecerse relación directa entre el uso del uranio
empobrecido y ciertos tumores que se habían observado en algunos de los combatientes.
Babelfish translation with other interpretation in [ Ö ].
Verbatim Report of Proceedings in original language
SITTING OF TUESDAY I, 9 APRIL 2002
Defence / armaments [ DU in Afghanistan ]
Lannoye (Verts/ALE). - Mr. President, I would like to mention a question
which concerns the two policies which
are the subject of the debate of this afternoon. It is about the problems related to the use of weapons and
ammunition on depleted uranium.
I point out that on January 15 2001, the European Parliament voted for
a resolution asking the adoption of a
moratorium on the use of these weapons and for ammunition. Recently, March 27 2002, the program of the United
Nations for the environment published the results of a study relating to six sites touched by ammunition with
uranium depleted of Serbia and Montenegro during the war of Balkans of 1999.
The study confirms a general contamination for five of the six sites
concerned; for two of these sites, one notes the
presence of uranium particles depleted in the neighbouring air. The results of measurements show that depleted
uranium dust was largely dispersed in the environment following the impact of these ammunition.
Even if the level of radioactive pollution is regarded as weak by the
program of the United Nations for the
environment, it does not remain about it less than this pollution confirms the risks which a use of weapons and
ammunition with depleted uranium make run to the soldiers, of course, but also with the civil populations, for
several generations undoubtedly.
Today, even if no official information confirms it, of many elements
accredit the thesis* according to which a great
part of the massively bombarded Afghan territory was contaminated by depleted uranium: declaration of the
Secretary of State Romsfeld evoking a contaminated site*, concern expressed by scientists Pakistani and
especially confirmation of the use of bombs radio-controlled with very dense metal penetrants [penetrator
warheads*], probably of depleted uranium.
According to our information, the PNUE [UNEP] should start, in the next
weeks, a study relating to the
environmental impact of the war. Questions remain however that I would like to pose with the Council: does the
Council plan to take particular measures to protect the humane troops [aid teams?] and missions on the ground, in
Afghanistan? What thinks the Council of the long-term use of this type of ammunition and weapons, knowing that
they are weapons for purpose indiscriminé [of indiscriminate effect] concerning at the same time the civil[ian]
populations and the soldiers?
---------------------------------------------------------------- [question later in the session]
Lannoye (Verts/ALE). - It will be very short Mr. President, I did not
have an answer to my questions concerning
the weapons and ammunition with depleted uranium. Could I have confirmation by the President of the Council of
what it is not able to answer me?
President. - I think he is willing to answer your question. I cannot
answer as to whether or not he is able to give you
Trillo-Figueroa, Consejo. - Sir President, Señori'a, discu'lpeme,
but the speed that prints the time and that their
Señori'as handles has prevented me so suitably to answer to him. I am going to do it with much pleasure.
In the first place, I must say to him that our information do not agree
with which it has handled its Señori'a. I have
information, that it does not matter to declassify at this moment [that can be released], which makes sure that
depleted uranium ammunition has not been used in Afghanistan and thus also they have indicated it the units with
NBQ [NBC} detectantes [detection] equipment NBQ in own Afghanistan, within the ISAF.
Secondly and with respect to its question on what protection measures
had been taken: aside from going
equipped with the equipment with detection NBQ, the units that the different countries we have moved, either to
Kabul, or - as in the case Spanish-also to Bagran, the medical units observe very precise rules of conduct and
carry out a constant pursuit [ongoing health monitoring], as much of that type of possible injuries for the health,
whatever of risks that could happen of the internal situation of the own country or some resistance.
In third place, I have to remember him that the Belgian Presidency initiated
a study, that continues the Spanish
Presidency, on the measures more adapted to guarantee the health of the troops. And, in last place, Señori'a, I
must say that the scientific committee to him that studied the problem in Spain - and were independent scientists
of university character and clinical it guaranteed that direct relation between the use of depleted uranium could not
settle down [be confirmed] and certain tumors that had been observed in some of the combatants.
Select "Verbatim report of proceedings" and "by date",
then select April 9, 2002, and download PDF file. (NB This file is 1+ Mb, possibly slow to load).
Original lead: The Week Ahead, Financial Times, 8 April 2002
* Re Lannoye's questions the proposition that large Depleted Uranium
guided weapons may have been used in
Afghanistan was raised by Dai Williams with the UK Government via MPs on 16th October and 1st November, and
on the Internet. This thesis, the weapons involved and recent Government replies re DU in Afghanistan to UK MPs
were analysed in detail in his report "Depleted Uranium weapons 2001-2002 - Mystery metal nightmare in
Afghanistan" 31 January 2002, sent to UN and other aid agencies. It is available online at:
http://www.eoslifework.co.uk/du2012.htm The Rumsfeld report of DU contamination in Afghanistan (16 January
2002) is quoted on page 120.
The issue was raised in the Pakistan publication Dawn by Aileen Qaiser
in Our lives are worthy too, on or
before 3 December.
This issue and the report were reviewed by Robert James Parsons in Le
Monde diplomatique, March 2002 at
http://mondediplo.com/2002/03/03uranium . This article has raised concern in Europe about potential DU hazards
to ISAF troops in Afghanistan, probably the source of Lannoye's questions reported above.
the EU Plenary Session on Tuesday
(attached to previous message)
Lannoye asked good questions - more detailed than I expected.
However I have the following reservations about Trillo-Figueroa's
1) He says that DU munitions have not been used. This is not
with Rumsfeld's press statement on 16 January that reported radiation from
DU missile warheads. It is interesting that ISAF is doing radiation
monitoring. It is a matter for concern that they have not detected
radiation when US forces have done. Either ISAF are monitoring different
locations or not using accurate equipment or methods.
Other reports from Afghanistan indicate that ISAF are operating in
locations - mostly in or near Kabul. Rumsfeld reported US attacks on over
50 locations suspected of being Al Qaeda NBC targets. His report suggested
the contamination was from Al Qaeda weapons. These locations have not been
publicly identified by the US. It seems very unlikely that ISAF have been
able to visit and test all these locations. My analysis suggests 7 DU
scenarios must be evaluated to include DU contamination by Al Qaeda weapons
or DU material stores, US or other allied weapons, or all these and in
populated and/or remote locations (report page 95).
Heavily bombed locations like Tora Bora and Gardez are still important
any significant DU contamination is likely to migrate by air and water to wider
and more populated areas. (Re-activation of fine DU oxide dust, 60% < 1.5 microns
was described by Dr Chris Busby last year and conformed in the latest UNEP report).
2) It is good to know that ISAF medical teams are conducting health
monitoring to include potential DU health effects on troops. But is DU
health monitoring also being applied for all civilians including Afghan
citizens and expatriates e.g. aid workers and media teams?
ISAF health monitoring in isolation is not sufficient. DU screening
needs to be
co-ordinated between military and civilians medical teams. This requires UN (WHO)
co-ordination but they are restricted on nuclear health issues by the IAEA, which
has strong links to the nuclear industry.
Health screening for recently deployed ISAF personnel that has not
indicated DU contamination is not sufficient proof that DU weapons have not
been used in Afghanistan. Potential DU exposure levels are likely to be
lower now (in urban areas) than during the bombing 3-5 months ago. Most
acute casualties would have died during the winter, concealed by reported
epidemics of pneumonia and Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (one covering
acute respiratory problems and the other internal bleeding, both symptoms of
acute DU contamination - report page 105 >) . However DU exposure risks
may increase again with summer heat, high winds and dust storms.
3) The third comment that Spanish research into DU health hazards
has not established a connection between DU and tumours is not at all
Similar results were reported by all NATO countries last year (compiled in
the DoD report of 25 October 2001). But Dr Chris Busby's re-analysis of
military epidemiological studies for Italian troops assigned to the Balkans
found serious errors in analysis - using incorrect comparison groups. Busby
identifies 11 x higher incidence of leukaemia and lymphoma than expected in
an equivalent normal population. (http://www.llrc.org.uk ).
Spanish troops were deployed in the same Western Kosovo region as
troops - the area of highest bombing with new hard target guided weapons
see Table 4, page 131.
EU MEP's would be wise to request full disclosure of DU health monitoring
data both for troops and civilians deployed in the Balkans and now in
Afghanistan. Several European governments use known and suspected DU
weapons including UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Germany.
Defence ministers and medical advisers should be expected to maintain the
view that DU does not present significant health hazards in support of US
and NATO use of DU weapons e.g. as stated in the latest UK MoD DU research
Given these factors the re-assurance that no DU has been used in
is not convincing. For humanitarian reasons I hope that DU has not been
used in Afghanistan, or if it has been used that exposure risks will be
localised and very low. It is good to know that ISAF are alert to potential
DU risks. But I am concerned that Trillo-Figueroa's statement on 9 April
indicate over confidence that DU has not been used based on insufficient
environmental or health monitoring data.
Continuing investigations provided stronger indications that DU has
used in some guided weapon systems as suspected in my report but not
previously disclosed by the US, UK or other governments. The Pentagon
report of 16 January regarding Al Qaeda missiles with DU warheads probably
refers to anti-tank missiles with tandem (shaped charge) warheads, also
researched by UK defence researchers between 1995-1999 according to the
latest UK MoD DU research proposal (March 2002), Appendix A. These include
the European Milan and Trigat missile systems but similar weapons are also
manufactured by Russia and several other countries.
Although ground launched anti-tank guided missiles use relatively
warheads (e.g. 1 kg excluding explosive in the Milan) they establish the
principle that DU has been or can be used in shaped charge warheads. Once
DU use is confirmed in shaped charge warheads (as reported on Jane's website
in 2001) then all munitions using shaped charge warhead technology become
suspect for DU use - including much larger warheads from 100 kg in AGM-65
Mavericks and Hellfire up to 250+ kg in the AGM-142 Hav Nap and first stage
of the BROACH warhead used in Storm Shadow / SCALP ER.
If DU is being used in shaped charge warheads for high penetration
applications then it becomes clear that arms manufacturers, military and
governments are not inhibited in use of DU in larger weapon systems than in
known 25, 30 and 120 mm anti-tank penetrators. Jane's website also reports
that DU is used "to increase the penetration effect" of some guided weapons
(report page 15).
I remain concerned that DU (U238 alloyed with Titanium, Niobium or
Molybdenum) is probably the main component in the advanced unitary
penetrator warheads. These are used in at least 7 guided bomb systems
weighing from 100 - 1500 kg (Fig 1 page 89). These weapons have been
used extensively in the Afghan bombing campaign (and some since
the Gulf War).
I conclude that the report to the EU Parliament yesterday that no
been used in Afghanistan cannot be trusted. The Pentagon has already
reported that DU contamination from missile warheads has been found.
in Afghanistan - if only by Al Qaeda. The urgent questions now are how
much has been used, where and by whom?
(1) European Parliament Plenary Session 9 April 2002, Defence / Armaments,
Verbatim report of proceedings at:
(2) DU weapons 2001-2002, Mystery metal nightmare in Afghanistan,
(Part 3 - Known and suspected DU weapons systems, pages 73-92, and Table 4 -
Combat use of known and suspected weapon systems, page 131).
(3) Federation of American Scientists Systems Index (Land and Smart)
(4) Proposal for a research programme on Depleted Uranium, Appendix
MoD, March 2002 at: