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About Defence

Depleted Uranium and the Environment

Independent reports on the environmental effects of using Depleted Uranium (DU) in testing and in battle have all supported MODs view that DU does not pose a risk to the environment. Environmental monitoring of the ranges in the UK where DU has been fired is regularly performed, and MOD has also assessed sites in the Balkans. A number of reports have been produced and are publicly available.

DU in the UK

The main trial firings of DU-based tank ammunition from land into the Solway Firth at Kirkcudbright were completed in September 2001. Further firings took place in February 2003 to confirm the performance of the fire control and sighting system of the Challenger II tank.

A comprehensive environmental monitoring programme is operated at Kirkcudbright, which includes the marine environment. It has shown that levels of DU provide negligible risk to health. MOD has undertaken to continue this environmental programme for as long as considered necessary by Departments with statutory responsibilities for health and environmental protection.

DU in Iraq

The Legal position with regard to clean-up is that it is for the civilian administration – with assistance from the international community – to assume responsibility for clean-up after an armed conflict. In Iraq, this responsibility lies with the Iraqi Interim Government formed on June 28, 2004.

UK Forces have been carrying out ordnance disposal activities and removing surface-lying DU fragments from the battlefield as they are discovered. They have also been exchanging information with humanitarian and commercial organisations involved in ordnance disposal work and warning Iraqis through signs and leaflets that they should not go near or touch any debris they find on the battlefield.

In June 2003, MOD scientists completed a preliminary technical assessment of a number of Iraqi tanks thought to have been struck by DU rounds. These tanks have been clearly marked pending further detailed examination by a MOD scientific team when the security situation allows. Preliminary findings indicate very low levels of DU in the vicinity of and on the tanks.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will assess depleted uranium (DU) levels in the environment as part of its post-conflict environmental survey of Iraq when the security situation allows. In support of the UNEP survey, MOD has provided UNEP with details of UK DU target locations.

MOD has also offered to provide advice on carrying out risk assessments on DU within urban areas and on long-term monitoring of DU in the environment, including water.