Kosovo: Uranium

aleks (aleks@netwurx.net)
Tue, 11 May 1999 12:45:19 -0500

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Pentagon's man in uranium warning

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
As debate intensifies over the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons in the
Balkan conflict, a former Pentagon adviser has come out against them.

He is Dr Doug Rokke, a US health physicist who led the DU clean-up in Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq immediately after the Gulf War.

In 1994, Dr Rokke, an Army Reserve captain, was appointed director of the
Pentagon's DU project, a job he left in 1997.

He helped develop an education and training programme, and conducted tests
on DU explosives in the Nevada desert.

The Pentagon has confirmed that A-10 aircraft are using DU rounds in the war
with Serbia. They are extremely heavy, and are used for their
armour-piercing capability. Veterans from the 1991 conflict believe DU,
which is both radioactive and toxic, may help to explain the existence of
Gulf War Syndrome.

Levels of radioactivity

They point to reports from southern Iraq of much higher levels of
stillbirths, birth defects, leukaemia and other child cancers.

DU munitions are highly effective armour penetrators
But Nato says DU is no more dangerous than any other heavy metal. Its
spokesman, Major Dan Baggio, says a DU round contained about as much uranium
as would go into "a glow-in-the-dark type of watch".

And the Rand Corporation says its study of DU "found little documented
evidence of adverse effects", from either radiation or toxicity.

It points out that DU is much less radioactive than natural uranium.

'Burning dust'

But Dr Rokke told BBC News Online it had been mislead by Major Baggio.

What sort of Kosovo will the refugees return to?
He believes that Pentagon officials have made "a political decision and are
totally unwilling to recognise that there are health consequences of the use
of DU".

Dr Rokke says the force of the impact of a DU round converts much of it into
a spray of burning uranium dust. "Consequently, we have DU dust which is a
radioactive, heavy, metal poison on or within the equipment", and it is
scattered up to 25 or 50 metres away.

He says anyone who has inhaled or ingested this dust, or who has let it
enter a wound, will need immediate medical treatment.

A senior officer of the US Defense Nuclear Agency said in 1991 that
radiation from fragments and intact DU rounds was "a serious health threat".
He said there was "a possible exposure rate of 200 millirems per hour on

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's maximum limit ... is 100 millirems per

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