| 26 February 2024, Monday |

US to send depleted-uranium munitions to Ukraine

According to a document seen by Reuters and independently confirmed by two U.S. officials, the Biden administration would for the first time ship contentious armor-piercing missiles containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.

The ammunition is a component of a new military aid package for Ukraine that will be announced in the next week and has the potential to help destroy Russian tanks. A individual with knowledge of the situation claims that U.S. Abrams tanks that are scheduled to be delivered to Ukraine in the upcoming weeks can shoot the ammunition.

According to one of the individuals, the forthcoming aid package will range in value from $240 million to $375 million, depending on what is included.

The value and contents of the package were still being finalized, the officials said. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although Britain sent depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine earlier this year, this would be the first U.S. shipment of the ammunition and will likely stir controversy. It follows an earlier decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite concerns over the dangers such weapons pose to civilians.

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.

A by-product of uranium enrichment, depleted uranium is used for ammunition because its extreme density gives rounds the ability to easily penetrate armor plating and self-ignite in a searing cloud of dust and metal.

While depleted uranium is radioactive, it is considerably less so than naturally occurring uranium, although particles can linger for a considerable time.

The United States used depleted uranium munitions in massive quantities in the 1990 and 2003 Gulf Wars and the NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia in 1999.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says that studies in former Yugoslavia, Kuwait, Iraq and Lebanon “indicated that the existence of depleted uranium residues dispersed in the environment does not pose a radiological hazard to the population of the affected regions.”

Still, the radioactive material could add to Ukraine’s massive post-war clean-up challenge. Parts of the country are already strewn with unexploded ordnance from cluster bombs and other munitions and hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel mines.

  • Reuters