Just days after the British government said that it would provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium, Russian President announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- Depleted Uranium
- Which countries have depleted uranium munitions?
- What are the risks of using such weapons?
- Where have depleted uranium munitions been used?
- Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the process of creating enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.
- It is much less radioactive than enriched uranium and incapable of generating a nuclear reaction.
- Depleted uranium is widely used in weapons as it is highly dense and can easily penetrate armour plating.
- The US began manufacturing armour-piercing rounds with depleted uranium in the 1970s and has since added it to composite tank armour to strengthen it.
- It has also been added to the munitions fired by the Air Force’s A-10 close air support attack plane and is still being developed for use in new munitions, such as the M829A4 armour-piercing round for the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank.
Which countries have depleted uranium munitions?
- Apart from the US, Britain, Russia, China, France and Pakistan produce uranium weapons, which are not classified as nuclear weapons, as per the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons said.
- Another 14 states are known to store them.
What are the risks of using such weapons?
- Even though depleted uranium munitions aren’t considered nuclear weapons, experts suggest that such weapons must be used with caution because they emit low levels of radiation and can cause severe diseases.
- Ingesting or inhaling quantities of uranium – even depleted uranium – is dangerous: it depresses renal function and raises the risk of developing a range of cancers.
- Moreover, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, depleted uranium munitions which miss their target can poison groundwater and soil.
Where have depleted uranium munitions been used?
- Depleted uranium munitions have been used in several conflicts around the world. Specifically, they were used:
- In the 1991 Gulf War to destroy T-72 tanks in Iraq.
- In the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
- During the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- According to the Royal Society, about 340 tons of depleted uranium were used in munitions during the 1991 Gulf War, and an estimated 11 tons were used in the Balkans in the late 1990s.
-Source: Indian Express