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Pressure grows for increased transparency over France’s depleted uranium testing range

In response to local concerns over the environmental and health impact of depleted uranium testing at Bourges, France, the General Council of the Department of Cher has passed a resolution calling for greater transparency and a moratorium on testing.
17 February 2012 - ICBUW

Bourges range map The town of Bourges is located 200km south of Paris and is home to the Etablissement Technique de Bourges – a weapons testing range that has also played host to battlefield research into radiological hazards. Between 1990 and 2000, at least 14,000 test firings of 105mm and 120mm DU rounds took place on the range and further testing may have taken place since then. The historical firings generated at least 120 tonnes of shell debris and 2500m2 of contaminated soils. The TT-DGA (General Directorate for Armaments - Ground Techniques), which operates the range, has failed to release data on DU testing since 2000.

ICBUW member organisations Alerte Uranium and Mouvement pour la Paix have been working to raise awareness of the potential for environmental contamination stemming from the range. There is increasing concern among local people about the health implications of the weapon testing. Having taken their concerns to local politicians the regional council recently passed a resolution entitled: For the truth about uranium weapons in the Cher.

The resolution formally requests that the Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development assess the soil, water, flora and fauna in the firing range of Bourges and its environs for DU contamination. It also strongly recommends that the Minister of Health commission a health survey in municipalities close to the firing range, including an analysis of the local cancer registries for evidence of an impact from DU.

The resolution also called for a moratorium on testing and greater transparency from the military over testing on the range.

"This is a milestone in the struggle of the campaigners of the Department of CHER, which shows that the elected members of the council are now aware of the seriousness of the DU issue and this is thanks to the information campaigns of the action groups," said Joel Frison from Alerte Uranium.

French campaigners are keen to build awareness of France’s DU weapons ahead of this year’s UN First Committee in October. Together with the UK, Israel and US, France voted against previous UN resolutions on depleted uranium in 2007, 2008 and 2010. They disputed the wording in the resolution that presupposed a health risk from DU. Nevertheless, parliamentary questions have revealed that the French MoD is pursuing research into alternative materials.