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SFOR takes the scientific approach to
DU ammunition

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.
A 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]
These 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."
On 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 DU.
A specialised German NBC team flown in especially from Santoven, Germany carried out the on-site investigation in Hadzici.
Maximum 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.
Following 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 http://www.nato.int/kosovo/010110du.htm

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work
COMSFOR on the use of Depleted Uranium Munitions in BiH