By Mr. David Taylor
First published in
SFOR Informer#105, January 24, 2001
Hadzici - On January 16, an SFOR investigation team
visited a factory site in the small town of Hadzici (approximately
12 kms. west of Sarajevo). Following the discovery of a cache
of suspected 30mm Depleted Uranium (DU) rounds, the team's mission
was threefold: to measure any radiation from the spent rounds;
measure any possible soil contamination; verify whether the ammunition
was in fact DU.
great deal has been said, stated and speculated about DU ammunition
in recent weeks as part of a wide-spread concern that there may
be some link between DU and an increased level of cancer risk.
Fundamentally, DU is simply a dense, heavy metal. Some armed forces
are equipped with bullets tipped with DU for use in armour penetration.
"Depleted uranium is a residual metal by-product of the uranium
enriching process. Since most of the radioactive isotopes have
been removed from it in the process, DU has only about 40 per
cent of the radioactivity, but retains all of the extraordinary
density and metallurgical properties that are characteristic in
naturally occurring uranium." [Lt.Col. Scott Bethel, SHAPE
Operations Division, NATO media briefing, Jan 10, 2001]
rounds are an approved munition type in accordance with the laws
of war. Furthermore, the International Committee on Radiation
Protection (ICRP) does not list DU as a health hazard and states
that it is 40 percent less radioactive than naturally occurring
Uranium. Major Bob Thompson, SFOR Spokesperson, has stated that
"SFOR does not believe that either troops serving with SFOR
today, or the civilian population in BiH are at risk from DU ammunition."
Jan 8, three bullets were handed in to SFOR by visiting journalists.
SFOR agreed to analyse the rounds to see whether they were DU.
First, though, SFOR gave a strong warning concerning the dangers
of people searching for and handling ordnance. Especially as,
in this case, the rounds appeared to have been found in an area
(Hadzici) in which combat took place in 1995, and the zone is
known to be mined. Studies confirmed that the three rounds were
A specialised German NBC team flown in especially from Santoven,
Germany carried out the on-site investigation in Hadzici.
attention was given to security with a team working in advance
to sweep the area for mines, unexploded ordnance and booby traps.
Once these preliminaries had been carried out, local authorities
and representative of the media were allowed to observe the NBC
team collecting samples and data. Following initial on-scene testing
and safety checks, the commander of the German Battle Group approached
the sampling area in the company of Mr. Mirsad Kebo Governor of
the Sarajevo Canton. Encouraged by the EOD sweep and the findings
of the NBC team, Mr. Mirsad Kebo was prepared to take a very close
look at one of the spent rounds.
further detailed investigations in a specialised laboratory at
the German HQ in Camp Carreau, Rajlovac, U.S. Lt. Col. Rodger
Rudolf, SFOR Environmental and Preventative Medicine Officer briefed
the media on Jan. 18.
"Based on careful analysis of the readings that were taken
on January 16, I can confirm that radiological results indicate
that there is negligible risk from the A-10 ammunition site at
Hadzici and there is no significant health hazard to the local
population or SFOR troops. Furthermore, the radiological results
obtained indicated that exposure to a person being one meter from
the ammunition for 24 hours per day everyday of the year would
be less than the current internationally accepted exposure standard
for one year for the general public."
Documents regarding DU have been grouped on the HQ NATO site at
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work
COMSFOR on the use of Depleted
Uranium Munitions in BiH