Britain is sending uranium weapons to be used in Ukraine. That was revealed in a parliamentary written answer from junior defence minister baroness Annabel Goldie on 20 March, first reported by Declassified UK the next day.
The advanced Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is exporting to Ukraine will be sent with
CHARM 3 armour-piercing depleted uranium (DU) rounds, Goldie confirmed.
CND general secretary Kate Hudson responded: ‘Like in Iraq, the addition of depleted uranium ammunition into this conflict will only increase the long-term suffering of the civilians caught up in this conflict. DU shells have already been implicated in thousands of unnecessary deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses.’
Depleted uranium is a radioactive weapon but not a nuclear weapon. It cannot cause a nuclear explosion because most of the unstable, radioactive U-235 has been removed from it.
Uranium is an extremely dense heavy metal. A depleted uranium shell is very good at piercing through tank armour and then breaking up into microscopic, fiery particles that will destroy whatever is inside the tank.
The fine dust created is both radioactive and chemically toxic. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) says: ‘The properties of DU weapons make it impossible to completely decontaminate contaminated sites where they were fired.’
According to the ICBUW, the toxic DU dust can be absorbed by the human body through food and just by breathing it in: ‘Many diseases can be caused: alteration and damage to the genome, malformations of the human body in the womb, impaired fertility in men and women, cancer in almost all organs, kidney failure and behavioral problems.’
The UK is actually phasing out depleted uranium rounds because the new Challenger 3 main battle tank, due in 2027, will have a smoothbore gun – which there are no DU rounds for.
The US is phasing out both depleted uranium weapons and depleted uranium tank armour, a process due to be complete by 2026, according to the ICBUW.
The British ministry of defence says: ‘The UK used very limited quantities (less than 2.9 tonnes) of DU in two armed conflicts in 1991 and 2003.’