Who actually uses depleted uranium ammunition and how dangerous is it?
British Deputy Defense Secretary Annabelle Goldie has confirmed that London is sending artillery shells with depleted uranium cores to Ukraine. Her statement caused an extremely sharp reaction from the Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin.
But as BBC Russia writes, Ukrainian and Russian weapons experts have announced that enriched uranium ammunition is also being produced in Russia.
Goldie said that armor-piercing shells containing depleted uranium will be delivered to Ukraine.
"Such missiles are very effective against modern tanks and armored vehicles.
This announcement caused a fierce reaction among the Russian authorities, who threatened to seriously consider how to respond to it.
What is depleted uranium?
Depleted uranium is a by-product in the production of enriched uranium. Its characteristics are its high density and strength, which is why it is used in the production of armor for military equipment, but also for ammunition - mainly cores for armor-piercing missiles.
Depleted uranium is not very radioactive, although it is considered toxic and carcinogenic. The European Union's website states that depleted uranium munitions have previously been used in the Gulf Wars, in Serbia and in Kosovo. Their use has raised concerns about the health risks of exposure to uranium dust.
The EU website states that several studies have found insufficient evidence of the substance's harmfulness, but experts' conclusions are interpreted in different ways. On the other hand, the website of the Environmental Protection Agency states that depleted uranium is dangerous if it enters the body.
The resolution on the use of depleted uranium, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018, states, citing IAEA studies, "that the radiological threat to the population and the environment caused by contamination of the territory with small particles of depleted uranium released as result of the use of ammunition is not significant".
However, the resolution added that in certain situations there is a risk of radiation exposure for people who are in direct contact with fragments or munitions containing depleted uranium.
In December last year, the UN General Assembly adopted another resolution stating that studies conducted by relevant international organizations do not provide a sufficiently complete picture of the extent of the possible long-term consequences for people and the environment in the event of the use of weapons and ammunition containing depleted uranium.
The reaction of the Kremlin
The Kremlin said the use of such munitions in Ukraine would be considered the use of a "dirty bomb", and Putin threatened that Russia would respond if Britain did deliver the munitions to Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the delivery of these munitions is an indication that the West is violating international humanitarian law, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, answering the question of whether there is a possibility of a nuclear collision, said that this is a step forward on that path. .
BBC Russia states that many armies in the world use such and similar weapons and ammunition. Subcaliber projectiles consist of a thin core, which is made of heavy and durable alloys using tungsten or depleted uranium, and a shell, which should be light.
Such missiles can be extremely effective against armored vehicles, and were used in World War II, and all modern tanks are armed with them. Many of them use depleted uranium.
In the USSR and Russia, such grenades have been developed since the 1980s. However, there is still no evidence that the Russian military is using depleted uranium munitions in the war against Ukraine.
There is no unequivocal opinion on how depleted uranium can be harmful to health, but it is a very effective munition with a high possibility of armor penetration. BBC Russia states that the fierce reaction of the Russian authorities in this case came not because of the danger that depleted uranium can cause to health, but because Ukrainian soldiers will be able to hit Russian tanks more effectively.