The British government recently said that it would provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.
What is depleted uranium?
- Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the process of creating enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.
- In comparison to enriched uranium, depleted uranium is much less radioactive and is incapable of generating a nuclear reaction.
- However, due to its high density (it’s more dense than lead) depleted uranium is widely used in weapons as it can easily penetrate armour plating.
- It’s got so much momentum that it just keeps going through the armour and it heats it up so much that it catches on fire.
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.
- Another 14 states are known to store them.
- Risks of using such weapons
- Even though depleted uranium munitions aren’t considered nuclear weapons, such weapons 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..
- 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 were used in the 1991 Gulf War to destroy T-72 tanks in Iraq.
- These weapons were again used in the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and then during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB