by the NATO Spokesman
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 reports 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 todays
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
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
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
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. Todays UNEP report adds
to the information available and should help reassure those
who have been concerned about the effects of Depleted Uranium.