Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War

by Leuren Moret

World Affairs - The Journal of International Issues, July 2004    8 July 2004

>              Leuren Moret has worked at two US nuclear weapons
>laboratories as a geoscientist.  In
>              1991 she became a whistleblower at the Livermore nuclear
>weapons lab, and since then
>              has worked as an independent citizen scientist and radiation
>specialist in communities
>              around the world, and contributed to the UN subcommission
>investigating depleted uranium.
>              Her research on the environmental and public health effects
>of low level radiation from
>              atmospheric testing fallout, nuclear power plants, and
>depleted uranium weaponry, is
>              available on the internet and at .
>In 2003, she testified at
>              the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan held in
>Japan, and presented at the
>              World Depleted Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg,
>Germany, and at the World
>              Court of Women at the World Social Forum in Bombay, India in
>January 2004. She is
>              a Global Research Contributing Editor, a City of Berkeley
>Environmental Commissioner, and
>              the Past President of the Association for Women Geoscientists.
>              More on by Leuren Moret

 >             The use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States,
defying all international
              treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on earth
including the human species, and yet
              this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its
destructive potential.

                        < This keynote serves notice: no moderate or
uncertain conclusions are to be expected from this author.  Out-Caldicott
Caldicott, that's the task.
                < Most treaties have nothing to do with depleted uranium
(DU).  By saying all treaties are defied by DU weapons, Moret is letting us
know clearly that she will insist on hyperbole, as a main theme of this
                < But that exaggeration is minor compared with the main
assertion: DUW will exterminate all life.   Not just the human sp, tho'
that is explicitly stipulated; all spp, including those known to be orders
of magnitude more radiation-resistant and much more rapidly mutating.
                < Moret is suggesting that the biological harm from USA DWU
is bound to be greater than not only all the nuclear explosions to date but
even the scale of nuclear war envisaged by those who conceived 'nuclear
winter'.  All those thousands of bombs are envisaged to decrease the human
population half a dozen orders of magnitude, but nobody has imagined
extermination of the human sp, let alone the cockroaches, fungi, benthic
algae, deep-smoker worms who will know little or nothing of this
catastrophe up on the surface, etc.

        < What may look like a scholarly jnl is printing blatant rubbish.


  >            The fact is that the United States and its military partners
have staged four nuclear wars, "slipping nukes under the wire" by using
dirty bombs and dirty weapons in countries the US needs to control.

        <  I object to this attempt to equate DUW to nuclear explosives.
The similarities are not great.
         < Also I object to this false statement that the USA 'needs to
control' any other countries.


 >             Described as the Trojan Horse of nuclear war, depleted
uranium is the weapon that keeps killing.  The half-life of Uranium-238 is
4.5 billion years, the age of the earth.  And, as Uranium-238 decays into
daughter radioactive products, in four steps before turning into lead, it
continues to release more radiation at each  step.  There is no way to turn
it off, and there is no way to clean it up.  It meets the US Government's
own  definition of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

              After forming microscopic and submicroscopic insoluble
Uranium oxide particles on the battlefield, they remain suspended in air
and travel around the earth as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust,
contaminating the environment, indiscriminately killing, maiming and
causing disease in all living things where  rain, snow and moisture remove
it from the atmosphere.  Global radioactive contamination from atmospheric
testing was the equivalent of 40,000 Hiroshima bombs, and still
contaminates the atmosphere and lower  orbital space today.  The amount of
low level radioactive pollution from depleted uranium released since 1991,
is many times more (deposited internally in the body), than was released
from atmospheric testing fallout.

        < Can this be true?  Who else has looked into it?  In view of the
global distribution of strontium-90 etc from explosions thru the
stratosphere , crossing the equator as had been previously thought barred
by the Hadley cells, this claim is on its face dubious.

   >           A 2003 independent report for the European Parliament by the
European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), reports that based on
Chernobyl studies, low level radiation risk is 100 to 1000 times greater
than the  International Committee for Radiation Protection models estimate
which are based on the flawed Atomic and  Hydrogen Bomb Studies conducted
by the US Government.  Referring to the extreme killing effects of
radiation on biological systems, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, one of the 46
international radiation expert authors of the ECRR  report, describes it as:

                     >                   "The concept of species
annihilation means a relatively swift,
                                        deliberately induced end to
history, culture, science, biological
                                        reproduction and memory.  It is the
ultimate human rejection
                                        of the gift of life, an act which
requires a new word to
                                        describe it: omnicide."

        <  This, I'm sorry to say, is another of the Caldicott genre.  As I
recall, she's an ex-nun with some qualification in science but a record of
wild exaggeration about nuclear weapons.
        < I was a main critic (as v-p NZCND) of the NZ govt's cosying up to
the USA & other nuclear powers in the 1970s.  NZCND pres Richard Northey
(later MP) and I originated what became the NZ govt bipartisan policy and
law excluding vehicles known normally to carry nuclear weapons.  I yield to
none in opposition to nukes.  However, I believe the opposition will
succeed only if based on fact, not wild exaggerations beyond fact & reason.


 >             In a declassified memo to General Leslie R. Groves, dated
October 30, 1943, three of the top physicists in the  Manhattan Project, Dr
James B Conant, A H Compton, and H C Urey, made their recommendation, as
members  of the Subcommittee of the S-1 Executive Committee, on the 'Use of
Radioactive Materials as a Military  Weapon':

   >                        "As a gas warfare instrument the material would
be ground into particles
                           of microscopic size to form dust and smoke and
distributed by a
                           ground-fired projectile, land vehicles, or
aerial bombs.  In this form it would
                           be inhaled by personnel. The amount necessary to
cause death to a person
                           inhaling the material is extremely small   There
are no known methods of
                           treatment for such a casualty   it will permeate
a standard gas mask filter in quantities                >large enough to be
extremely damaging."

 >             As a Terrain Contaminant:

   >                        "To be used in this manner, the radioactive
materials would be spread on
                           the ground either from the air or from the
ground if in enemy controlled
                           territory. In order to deny terrain to either
side except at the expense of
                           exposing personnel to harmful radiations   Areas
so contaminated by
                           radioactive material would be dangerous until
the slow natural decay of the
                           material took place   for average terrain no
decontaminating methods are
                           known. No effective protective clothing for
personnel seems possible of
                           development.   Reservoirs or wells would be
contaminated or food poisoned
                           with an effect similar to that resulting from
inhalation of dust or smoke."

 >             Internal Exposure:

 >                          "  Particles smaller than 1 [micron] are more
likely to be deposited in
                           the alveoli where they will either remain
indefinitely or be absorbed into
                           the lymphatics or blood.   could get into the
gastro-intestinal tract from
                           polluted water, or food, or air.   may be
absorbed from the lungs or G-I
                           tract into the blood and so distributed
throughout the body."

        < Suppose this is authentic 1943 material; can it really be the
best info today?  Nearly everything now known about such concepts has been
discovered since then.

   >           The pyrophoric nature of depleted uranium, which causes it
to begin to burn at very low  temperatures from friction in the gun barrel,
made it an ideal radioactive gas weapon then and now.

        < If that is so, how can a DU bullet or shell arrive at its target
in a fit state to penetrate it?  Ooutsiders like me have been well aware
that Pu is pyrophoric; it surprises me if U is also, as I'd have expected
to hear of it.

>Also it  was more available because the amount of depleted uranium
>produced was much greater than the amount of  fission products produced in

        < This much is true.  It had to happen sometime.

 >             Britain had thoughts of using poisoned gas on Iraq long
before 1991:

                                        "I am strongly in favour of using
poisoned gas against
                                        uncivilized tribes. The moral
effect should be good... and it
                                        would spread a lively terror..."
(Winston Churchill commenting on
                                        the British use of poison gas
against the Iraqis after the First World War).

        < I'm afraid I won't accept, from Moret, that Winnie said this,
until I get a ref. so I can go & look it up.  Why is M privileged from
citing refs?  It is a v bad sign, denoting a certain arrogance.


>100 per cent of the depleted uranium in bombs and missiles is aerosolized
>upon impact and immediately released into the atmosphere. This amount can
>be as much as 1.5 tons in the large bombs. In bullets and cannon shells,
>the amount aerosolized is 40-70 per cent, leaving pieces and unexploded
>shells in the environment, to provide new sources of radioactive dust and
>contamination of the groundwater from dissolved depleted uranium metal
>long after the battles are over, as reported in a 2003 report by the UN
>Environmental Program on Yugoslavia. Considering that the US has admitted
>using 34 tons of depleted uranium from bullets and cannon shells in
>Yugoslavia, and the fact that 35,000 NATO bombing missions occurred there
>in 1999, potentially the amount of depleted uranium contaminating
>Yugoslavia and  transboundary drift into surrounding countries is


 >             Nearly 700,000 American Gulf War Veterans returned to the US
from a war that lasted just a few weeks.  Today more than 240,000 of those
soldiers are on permanent medical disability, and over 11,000 are dead.  In
a US Government study on post-Gulf War babies born to 251 veterans, 67 per
cent of the babies were reported to have serious illnesses or serious birth
defects. They were born without eyes, ears, had missing  organs, fused
fingers, thyroid or other malfunctions.  Depleted uranium in the semen of
the soldiers internally  contaminated their wives.  Severe birth defects
have been reported in babies born to contaminated civilians in  Iraq,
Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and the incidence and severity of defects is
increasing over time.  Women in  Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq are
afraid now to have babies, and when they do give birth, instead of asking
if it is a girl or a boy, they ask 'is it normal?'.

        <Is a death rate of 11,000/700,000 over 13 y unusually high for
such a cohort of Yanks?  Moret begs this question.  She merely implies it
is high.
        < On the other hand the birth defect rate alleged is enormous.  (My
supposition would be that *several* causes would have to synergize to
produce such a huge rate of birth defects. )  If that is an accurate quote,
it doesn't constitute evidence that DU was 'the' cause.


  >             Table 1: Compiled by Leuren Moret from Interviews with Gulf
War Vets and their families

                                  < this is a huge list of almost every
illness ever heard of.  It is of obscure significance.  I particularly like
the inclusion of 'Gulf War syndrome'.




>              Soldiers who served in Bradley fighting vehicles, where it
>was common to sit on ammunition boxes where depleted uranium ammunition
>was stored, are now reporting that many have rectal cancer.

        < One advantage of this interesting hypothesis is that toxicity of
U could scarcely be involved; if the U had any effect, it was presumably
thru radiation.  The dose rate to those bums is easy to replicate &
measure.  What is it?  Does the claimed 'many' correspond with known
productivity of rectal cancer by external radiation?

   >           "DEPLETED URANIUM SCARE" - Claimed by President George W.
Bush on the official White House website:

                                        "During the Gulf War, coalition
forces used armor-piercing
                                        ammunition made from depleted
uranium, which is ideal for
                                        the purpose because of its great
density. In recent years,
                                        the Iraqi regime has made
substantial efforts to promote the
                                        false claim that the depleted
uranium rounds fired by
                                        coalition forces have caused
cancers and birth defects in
                                        Iraq. Iraq has distributed
horrifying pictures of children with
                                        birth defects and linked them to
depleted uranium. The
                                        campaign has two major propaganda

                                        "Uranium is a name that has
frightening associations in the
                                        mind of the average person, which
makes the lie relatively
                                        easy to sell; and Iraq could take
advantage of an established
                                        international network of
antinuclear activists who had already
                                        launched their own campaign against
depleted uranium."

                                        "But scientists working for the
World Health Organization, the
                                        UN Environmental Programme, and the
European Union could
                                        find no health effects linked to
exposure to depleted

< Moret seems to imply that just because Dubya said it, it must be wrong.


>              In 1990, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)
>wrote a report warning about the potential health and environmental
>catastrophe from the use of depleted uranium weapons.  The health effects
>had been known for a long time.  The report sent to the UK government
>warned "in their estimation, if 50 tonnes of  residual DU dust remained
>'in the region' there could be half a million extra cancers by the end of
>the century [2000]."  Estimates of depleted uranium weapons used in 1991,
>now range from the Pentagon's admitted 325 tons, to other scientific
>bodies who put the figure as high as 900 tons.  That would make the number
>of estimated cancers as high as 9,000,000, depending on the amount used in
>the 1991 Gulf War. In the 2003 Gulf War, estimates of 2200 tons have been
>given - causing about 22,000,000 new cancer cases.  Altogether the total
>number of cancer patients estimated using the UKAEA data would be
>25,250,000. In July of 1998, the  CIA estimated the population of Iraq to
>be approximately 24,683,313.

        < It's all too easy to forget that cancer strikes about 1 in 3.
The idea that this will be trebled by DU to 1 in 1, i.e everybody, is hard
to believe.


>Clearly, this has been a genocidal plan from the start.


> More than ten times the amount of radiation, released during atmospheric
>testing, has been released from depleted  uranium weaponry since 1991.

        < This statement, buried in a caption of a dubious diagram (but
also asserted earlier, above), is open to testing by independent
calculation.  Who will do it?

> In 2002 the US government admitted that  every person living in the US
>between 1957 and 1963 was internally contaminated with radiation.

        < This is a classic of pseudo-scientific scaremongering.  The
statement itself is a platitude  -  every organism on the surface of the
Earth must have incorporated *some* fallout.  The question is *how much* ;
by now you may not be surprised at Moret's skipping this.
        < Having drafted scientific parts of the NZ govt's pleadings to the
World Court in our successful suit against the Fr govt over the fallout
imposed on us by their atmospheric tests, and having campaigned hard in CND
against those tests, including sending the Peace Flotilla in 1972-74, I
again yield to nobody in regard to the wrongfulness of low-level radiation
when those exposed have no choice and get zero benefit.  I just want
reasonable science, not loose raving.

        <The rest is mainly about The Carlyle Group.  It is of v dubious
relevance to the issue of DU.

        < This raver Moret does the cause little good by putting out such
rubbish.  She has had trips around the world, like Caldicott; but she
brings a most important cause into disrepute.

        It is extremely difficult to discern how important are the effects
of DU.  Formation of a scientific opinion is not assisted by Moret's raving.