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MSPs and CADU Condemn Renewed Solway Firth Depleted Uranium Tests

Scottish Nationalist and Green Members of the Scottish Parliament today echoed the concerns of the Scottish Environment Minister Mike Russell by condemning the MoD’s decision to renew uranium weapon testing at its firing range near Dundrennan on the Solway Firth.

11 March 2008 - ICBUW

The five days of test firing of the controversial weapons comes at a time when the international community is moving towards outlawing their use because of concerns over their impact on human health and the environment.

Last December the United Nations General Assembly voted by 136 states to five to request that states submit reports on the health impacts of uranium weapons. The UK was just one of only five states to vote against the resolution, along with the US, Israel, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

The vote came at the end of an extraordinary 18 month period that saw the world’s first domestic ban on uranium weapons in Belgium, a vote by the European Parliament for a moratorium leading to a ban and the announcement of a huge compensation scheme for Italian Iraq and Balkan war veterans.

Green Co-convener Robin Harper MSP said: "Depleted uranium shells leave behind the kind of pollution normally associated with dirty bombs, radioactive material that damages the environment and risks future health problems. There is no safe place to test these shells, and there is no appropriate battlefield to use them on either. The MoD should be ashamed of going back to Dundrennan with this discredited technology, and should instead commit to the ban requested by the European Parliament."

An SNP spokesperson said: “When they were serving in areas where uranium weapons had been used, service personnel were issued with warning cards. That would suggest that the UK Government were well aware of the health problems associated with its use. We want to ask the Secretary of State for Defence about the UK’s position with regard to these international developments. Although we don’t have any powers over defence policy we are responsible for the health and well being of the people and service personnel of Scotland.”

Whether the MoD’s decision to renew testing is a political response to these events or heralds their use in either Iraq or Afghanistan, both CADU and local residents are deeply concerned about their impact. The MoD has fired more than 6000 rounds of anti-tank ammunition at the Dundrennan site over the last 20 years, equating to more than 20 tonnes of uranium.

CADU Development Worker Doug Weir said: "It is ironic that the UK has fired more uranium at home than it has done abroad. The 6000 rounds fired into and around the Solway Firth amounts to more than 20 tonnes of nuclear waste. Worrying stories from ex-workers about contaminated gun barrels wrapped in bin liners being transported by low-loader to the low level waste depository at Drigg in Cumbria abound, raising real concerns about the safety of open air testing at the site.

“Coming as they do as the international community is taking its first steps towards banning the use of uranium in weapons, these tests are very unhelpful and highlight the UK’s lack of respect for international law, environmental protection and arms control.”