Depleted uranium, a by-product of the nuclear enriching process used to make nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons, has become a topic of concern as the UK plans to supply Ukraine with military supplies, including armour piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow would be “forced to react” if Britain goes ahead with the supply. Armour piercing rounds containing depleted uranium are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles due to its heaviness that helps them easily penetrate steel. However, the United Nations Environment Program has described depleted uranium as a “chemically and radiologically toxic heavy metal.” Anti-nuclear organization CND has condemned the decision to send the ammunition, calling it an “additional environmental and health disaster for those living through the conflict” as toxic or radioactive dust can be released on impact. The munitions were used in conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, and were suspected of being a possible cause of “Gulf War syndrome,” a collection of debilitating symptoms suffered by veterans of the 1990-91 war. However, researchers from the UK’s University of Portsmouth tested sufferers to examine levels of residual depleted uranium in their bodies and say their 2021 study “conclusively” proved that none of them were exposed to significant amounts of depleted uranium.
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