Controversial depleted uranium shells to be used in Scotland again

The shells are fired from British Challenger 2 tanks. Pic: Andrew Skudder.

TOXIC depleted uranium shells are set to be test-fired in Scotland again, it has been revealed.

The Scottish Government and environmental groups say they are strongly opposed to plans to test radioactive depleted uranium [DU] tank shells.

Campaigners warn there are pollution and health risks if the MoD resumes firing the shells at the Dundrennan military firing range near Kirkcudbright on the Solway coast.

The move comes as politicians and campaigners launched a new drive today (Sun) to persuade the MoD to drop DU weapons.

A motion at Westminster is backed by Labour, Liberal, Tory, Nationalist and other MPs.

DU is a radioactive and chemically toxic heavy metal produced as waste by the nuclear industry.

It was widely used by UK and US militaries to harden armour-piercing shells fired in the Gulf, Balkans and Iraq wars.

When DU weapons burn, they release a dust that can contaminate wide areas.

Civilians and soldiers exposed to the contamination claim to have suffered from cancers, birth defects and other illnesses.

More than 6000 shells were fired at Dundrennan and Dumfriesshire from 1982 to 2008 when tests stopped.

Soil samples from 2006 showed the high contamination for 10 years in breach of agreed saftey limits, and high levels of DU have been discovered in earthworms on the site.

‘Cold War relic’

According to the MoD, the propelling charges in the CHARM3 DU shells fired by Challenger tanks need to be renewed in 2013.

The MoD says it wants to retain its DU capability and is ‘considering options’ for the renewal.

But any replacement or modified shells will need to be tested at Dundrennan.

Aneka Kellay from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium said: “Current plans to extend the life of the UK’s DU ammunition will entail more testing at Dundrennan, unless the government at last recognises DU’s unnaceptability and removes the toxic Cold War relic from its arsenal.”

The Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, Katy Clark, said she would be concerned if DU tests resumed.

She said: “There remain health concerns about these weapons and we should be concentrating on getting an international vban on their production and use.”

Clark is one of the sponsors of an early day motion in the House of Comons that criticises DU for leaving a ‘toxic legacy.’
Supported by 23 Mps, it calls on the Government to cease using DU.

They believe this, combined with spending cuts, could spell the end for Britain’s DU weapons.

The Scottish Government said it was ‘strongly opposed’ to DU testing on Scottish soil.

A spokeswoman said: “While this is a reserved matter, the MoD has assured the Scottish Government it will provide early notification of any test firing of DU shells at Kircudbright.”

The MoD said: “Any current testing has all been done in full consultation with the Scottish Government and there is nothing to suggest this would not continue.”