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US Plans to Transfer Depleted Uranium Shells to Ukraine

The Biden administration is sending depleted uranium rounds to Ukraine as part of its most recent efforts to fortify the embattled nation against Russian aggression.

The Department of Defense announced on Sept. 6 that the administration will send $175 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine. The package is the 46th of its kind since the war in Ukraine began in February last year.
Controversially, the package includes 120 mm depleted uranium rounds for use in the Abrams tanks previously delivered by the United States to Ukraine.

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Depleted uranium is an immensely dense metal used in armored vehicle plating and armor-piercing munitions, and is likely to help Ukrainian forces destroy Russian tanks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the drawdown underscored the United States’ unwavering support of Ukraine during a Sept. 6 meeting with Ukrainian leadership in Kyiv.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed in the counteroffensive, but [also] has what it needs for the long term … so that, in the future, aggressions like this don’t happen again,” Mr. Blinken said.

Depleted Uranium: A Controversial Boon to Ukraine

Depleted uranium is a slightly radioactive material made as a byproduct of the process used to enrich the uranium used in nuclear weapons.

The material’s high density makes it superb for both armor and armor-piercing uses. Still, some believe that discarded uranium shells left on the battlefield spread radiation-related illnesses and death.

As such, the metal has long been the subject of international controversy.

The United States and its allies used depleted uranium in Kosovo, and the United States later adopted the technology on a large scale in the Iraq War, which came under mass public scrutiny.

Since 2007, the United Nations General Assembly has ordered several reviews into the adverse health effects of depleted uranium. Still, multiple subsequent studies have found no substantive link between the munitions and serious poisoning of either people or the environment.

Relatedly, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation continues to review the scientific literature on the effects of inhaling or ingesting depleted uranium but has concluded that no “clinically significant” radiation pathology could be correlated to the use of such munitions.

To that end, the United Kingdom already announced its own shipment of depleted uranium tank rounds to Ukraine in March.

Just as the United States’ shipment will provide rounds for the U.S.-made Abrams tanks, so did the UK’s shipments correlate to the British-provided Challenger tank.

Russia Vows Escalation, Invokes ‘Nuclear Armageddon’

Russia responded to the UK’s announcement by threatening further hostilities and falsely claiming that the United Kingdom was committing nuclear escalation by sending rounds that it said contained a “nuclear component.”

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, claimed at the time that the rounds were highly toxic and risked nuclear war.

“When using depleted uranium shells radioactive dust settles,” the Russian Embassy in the United States quoted Mr. Antanov as saying. “It is toxic and cannot be decontaminated.

“An endless flow of deadly weapons from the West brings humanity to a dangerous line, beyond which nuclear Armageddon is looming.”

Despite Mr. Antonov’s claims, depleted uranium is not used in nuclear weapons, and the rounds cannot be used to create an atomic weapon.

It is unclear how Russia will respond to the United States’ announcement.

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