My Turn: Learning more about nuclear weapons

By SUZANNE R. CARLSON

Published: 07-31-2023 4:45 PM

Watching the film “Oppenheimer,” I resented the sound and visual distractions and the lack of the horrors of the effects of atomic/nuclear weapons on the people and environment around the New Mexico test site (July 16, 1945) and those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Aug 6 and 9, 1945). I want people to see the ghastly suffering of survivors and the corpses or burnt shadows of those nuked. I hope those who saw the movie will seek out more reality, and it won’t be in Hollywood films nor mainstream media.

Earlier this year the news media began reporting that the U.S. planned to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, while many countries objected. This month it was reported that the U.S. (and UK) sent cluster munitions to Ukraine. During these months the mainstream news media has not reported about U.S. plans to send depleted uranium (DU) munitions to be fired from U.S. and UK tanks sent to Ukraine.

I recently read an extensive report in Nuke Watch Quarterly (Summer 2023) written by staff member John La Forge, “U. S. Adding Uranium Weapons to long List of Ukrainian War System.” It began with a June 13 report from The Wall Street Journal:

“The Biden administration is expected to supply Ukraine with highly controversial depleted-uranium shells which are to be fired from the Abrams battle tanks the U.S. is sending to Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reported June 13.” It continued that “any delivery of U.S. depleted uranium (DU) weapons to Ukraine would be in addition to the State Department’s Dec. 22, 2022 approval of the sale to Poland of as many as 112,000 heavy 120-millimeter DU shells. These large DU anti-tank shells are so heavy that the Uranium in 112,000 munitions could weigh as much as 36 tons.”

La Forge also wrote that the British ministry of defense announced last March 20 that it too would send DU weapons to Ukraine along with its Challenger battle tanks. The Russians responded that would mean UK was “ready to violate international humanitarian law as in 1999 in Yugoslavia.” Yet the UK and U.S. continue sending DU munitions for their tanks to use in Ukraine — and these three nations continue to violate international law.

There has been little reporting of U.S. use of DU munitions and the long-term effects on health and quality of life, rather concealing some of the hard facts and canceling some incriminating research. The metal in DU shells is often contaminated with long-lived and highly-radioactive isotopes plutonium, neptunium and americium, much more hazardous than Uranium 238. The U.S. has about 700,000 metric tons of this waste, Ur-238, as it is 99% of the Ur-ore that contains less than 1% Ur-235, the fissionable Ur for nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. They’ve made this “waste” into powerful weapons. In 1997, the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute reportedly found that, “In animal studies, embedded DU, unlike most metals, dissolves and spreads throughout the body, depositing in organs like the spleen and the brain, and a pregnant female rat will pass DU along to a developing fetus.”

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The use of DU munitions in Iraq (early 1990s) is responsible for thousands of birth deformities, so extreme that you’d be convinced we must never use DU weapons again.

In 1990, the Army’s Armaments, Munitions and Chemical Command radiological task group said that depleted uranium is a “low level alpha radiation emitter … linked to cancer when exposures are internal, and chemical toxicity casing kidney damage … and long term effects of low doses (of DU) have been implicated in cancer … there is no dose so low that the probability of effect is zero.”

Further disturbing information is available in LaForge’s full report at nukewatchinfo.org as well as info@icbuw.eu, the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. I await a video or text from their webinar, which I missed on June 16, 2023: “What are the consequences of Uranium munitions in the Ukraine war?”

There’s plenty of information out there that would turn any human being into an activist to abolish nuclear weapons before our governments and military lead us into annihilation and nuclear winter. So join a movement for peace and survival. We can only do this together.

Suzanne R. Carlson, of Greenfield is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, earth-lover, and activist with several organizations.

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