Depleted Uranium Munition
As the tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalate, the use of depleted uranium munitions has once again come into the spotlight. The use of these weapons is a cause for concern not only due to their devastating impact but also because of the risk they pose to human health and the environment.
Armour-Piercing Rounds Containing Depleted Uranium
The British government recently announced its plan to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. These weapons are made from a byproduct of the process of creating enriched uranium used in nuclear reactors and weapons. Due to its high density, depleted uranium is widely used in weapons as it can easily penetrate armour plating.
Depleted Uranium Munitions and their Risks
Apart from the US, several countries, including Britain, Russia, China, France, and Pakistan, produce depleted uranium munitions. However, the use of these weapons poses several risks. They emit low levels of radiation and can cause severe diseases if ingested or inhaled. Additionally, if these weapons miss their target, they can poison groundwater and soil.
Previous Use of Depleted Uranium Munitions
Depleted uranium munitions were first used in the 1991 Gulf War. The Royal Society estimated that about 340 tons of depleted uranium were used in munitions during the war. Since then, these weapons have been used in several conflicts, including the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Depleted Uranium Weapons and International Law
Despite the risks associated with the use of depleted uranium munitions, they are not classified as nuclear weapons by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. This is because depleted uranium weapons do not have an explosive yield and are instead classified as conventional weapons.
The M829A4 Armour-Piercing Round
The US military is currently developing the M829A4 armour-piercing round for the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank. This is a depleted uranium munition that is expected to provide significant advantages due to its high density and momentum, making it an effective weapon against armoured targets.
Expert Opinion on Depleted Uranium Munitions
According to experts, depleted uranium is so dense and has so much momentum that it can easily penetrate armour plating. However, the use of these weapons must be carefully considered due to the potential risks they pose.