- UK Forces have two types of DU ammunition; 120 mm anti-tank rounds (CHARM 3), fired by the Army’s Challenger tanks and 20mm rounds used by the Royal Navy’s PHALANX Close-In Weapon System (a missile defence system).In recent years, a new tungsten round has been developed for the Royal Navy’s close-in weapons system, which does not require anti-armour properties. Since 1996, all replacement ammunition for the Phalanx system has been of the tungsten variety, and by late 2004 the Royal Navy will no longer be using DU in its PHALANX Weapon System.
- The use of DU is neither illegal nor prohibited under any international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions. DU ammunition is not used indiscriminately. An Iraqi proposition to designate DU a weapon of mass destruction was solidly defeated on 25 October 2002 at the United Nations 1st Committee Meeting when 59 countries voted against it.
- DU is almost twice as dense as lead and has the ability to self-sharpen on impact with armour, thus making it ideally suited for use as a kinetic energy anti-armour penetrator. At present, no satisfactory alternative material exists to provide the level of penetration needed to defeat the most modern battle tanks. DU tank munitions will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect them and succeed in conflict.
- There is no reliable scientific or medical evidence to link DU with the ill health of either Gulf or Balkans veterans or people living in these regions. Many independent reports have been produced and researchers continue to consider the battlefield effects of using DU munitions. These reports include work by the Royal Society, the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). None of these organisations has found a connection between DU exposure and illness, and none has found widespread DU contamination sufficient to impact the health of the general population or deployed personnel. Two Royal Society reports on "The Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Munitions" (2001, 2002) are particularly informative. They may be studied at: www.royalsoc.ac.uk/du.
- 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.
- On 26 September 2001, MOD set up the independent Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (DUOB), who have now developed a retrospective testing programme for DU in the urine of veterans of the 1990/91 Gulf Conflict and the Balkans operations. The main testing programme is planned to begin later this year. The progress of this project can be monitored on the internet at: www.duob.org.uk.
Last Updated: 20 May 04