Updated: 13-Mar-2001 NATO Press Releases


13 March 2001

Statement by the NATO Spokesman

Report by the UN Environment Programme
Concerning Depleted Uranium

NATO welcomes the publication of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on possible health hazards associated with the use of Depleted Uranium munitions in Kosovo. Throughout, as is acknowledged, we have given full assistance to the UNEP team, and we welcome the report’s conclusion that the health hazards are minimal.

NATO takes matters of health and environment very seriously. We have a particular interest in the well-being of NATO and Partner soldiers, as well as any health and longer term environmental considerations that may affect the local population in the Balkans. That is why we have established an ad hoc committee to serve as a clearinghouse for all relevant information concerning Depleted Uranium, and have made a clear commitment to maximum transparency and openness on this issue. All reports, including today’s UNEP report, stress that the health risks of Depleted Uranium are insignificant. But that does not stop our determination to be proactive and transparent in our handling of this issue.

The UNEP report shows in particular that the risks to KFOR personnel of exposure to Depleted Uranium are negligible, and neither is there evidence of any harm to the civilian population. NATO has consistently stated that DU could only be a hazard under very specific, very limited circumstances, and this report emphasises how unlikely it is that our personnel, and the local population, will have been exposed to sufficient DU to suffer ill-effects.

A number of other points are worthy of note. For example, the report states: that the risks of widespread or localised contamination is insignificant, and radiation levels are barely measurable; that even where DU material was found on the surface, the risks to health were still insignificant; that there has been no groundwater contamination or impact on the food chain; that the measurable levels of plutonium and U-236 found within Depleted Uranium munitions are so low as to have no effect on radioactivity levels.

While emphasising the insignificant risks, the UNEP report also refers to some remaining issues, and makes a number of recommendations, including further assessing the feasibility and justification for cleaning up or marking sites where appropriate. NATO has been conducting its own study into the issue of clearing or marking sites and the UNEP report will be taken into full account.

This report adds to the existing and growing body of independent evidence that Depleted Uranium munitions have not been responsible for any ill-health in KFOR/SFOR personnel or civilians in the region. Since this became a matter of public concern NATO and its member nations have launched many studies, as well as reviewed existing medical literature, and have found no reason to revise the current view that the use of Depleted Uranium munitions in the Balkans has harmed neither our personnel nor the local population.

Nevertheless, NATO will not be complacent on this issue, which remains a high priority. Our ad hoc committee remains in place for the exchange of information. Today’s UNEP report adds to the information available and should help reassure those who have been concerned about the effects of Depleted Uranium.

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