M829A4 depleted uranium tank round

US soldier holding an M829A4 depleted uranium tank round

(photo credit: US Department of Defense)

US to Begin Sending Controversial Depleted Uranium Shells to Ukraine

Peace groups have long campaigned for a ban on DU munitions

The Biden administration will, for the first time, send controversial armor-piercing munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine, according to Reuters.

The munition can be fired from US Abrams tanks, which are expected to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks.

The shells, which will come from US excess inventory, would be funded by the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which lets the president make transfers from US stocks without Congress' approval in the case of an emergency.

This follows an earlier decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine despite concerns over the dangers such weapons pose to civilians.

If the US deploys depleted uranium shells to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to retaliate with DU rounds—which are linked to birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the production of fuel used in nuclear power stations. Its extreme density gives rounds the ability to penetrate armor-plating easily.

The use of depleted uranium munitions has been fiercely debated, with opponents like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons saying there are dangerous health risks from ingesting or inhaling depleted uranium dust, including cancers and birth defects.

Common Dreams has reported:

The U.S.-led NATO coalition that waged the 1999 air war against Yugoslavia also used DU munitions, which experts believe are responsible for a surge in leukemia in the region, both among the local population and foreign troops deployed in the war zone.

Peace groups have long campaigned for a ban on DU munitions. Last September, the United Nations General Assembly approved an Indonesian draft resolution urging further research of the "health risks and environmental impact" of DU weapons and calling for a "cautionary approach" to their use.

The resolution was approved by 147 nations. The U.S., U.K., France, and Israel voted against the proposal.

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