In military applications, when alloyed, Depleted Uranium [DU] is ideal for use in armor penetrators. These solid metal projectiles have the speed, mass and physical properties to perform exceptionally well against armored targets. DU provides a substantial performance advantage, well above other competing materials. This allows DU penetrators to defeat an armored target at a significantly greater distance. Also, DU's density and physical properties make it ideal for use as armor plate. DU has been used in weapon systems for many years in both applications.
Depleted uranium results from the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Natural uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that is present in most rocks and soils as well as in many rivers and sea water. Natural uranium consists primarily of a mixture of two isotopes (forms) of uranium, Uranium-235 (U235) and Uranium-238 (U238), in the proportion of about 0.7 and 99.3 percent, respectively. Nuclear reactors require U235 to produce energy, therefore, the natural uranium has to be enriched to obtain the isotope U235 by removing a large part of the U238. Uranium-238 becomes DU, which is 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium. Since DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, there is very little decay of those DU materials.
Sources and Resources
- 20mm MK149
- 25mm PGU-20
- 25mm M919 Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized, Discarding Sabot, with Tracer (APFSDS-T)
- 30mm PGU-14/B API Armor Piercing Incendiary
- 120mm M829 Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized, Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFSDS-T)
- RAND REVIEW INDICATES NO EVIDENCE OF HARMFUL HEALTH EFFECTS FROM DEPLETED URANIUM April 15, 1999 -- The Department of Defense announced today the release of a RAND scientific literature review that indicates no evidence of harmful health effects directly linked to depleted uranium exposures at levels experienced by Gulf War veterans.
- DEPLETED URANIUM A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses April 1999 --RAND Health's Center for Military Health Policy Research and the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the National Defense Research Institute, sponsored by the Office of the Special Assistant
- DoD News Briefing -- Bernard D. Rostker, Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses April 15, 1999 - Natural uranium is 40 percent less radioactive than depleted uranium, so any conclusions that you can draw on natural uranium, say of a negative nature, can be applied equally well to depleted uranium.
- FACT SHEET: DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DESCRIBES DEPLETED URANIUM USE Voice of America 03 May 1999
- HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF DEPLETED URANIUM USE BY THE U.S. ARMY U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute June 1994
- DULink provides information to Gulf War veterans concerned with exposure to DU during service in the Gulf War.
- Depleted Uranium: agent orange of the 90's / another pentagon coverup @ Military Toxics Project
- DEPLETED URANIUM EDUCATION PROJECT @ International Action Center -- Radioactive Battlefields--The Pentagon's New Weapon
- Metal of Dishonor - How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers & Civilians with Depleted Uranium Weapons