Ahead of this year’s discussion of the UN General Assembly on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunition containing depleted uranium
The following made use of this: Brunei Darussalam, Cuba, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, the Netherlands, Oman, Peru, Qatar and the Ukraine.
Brunei recognizes the high health and environmental risks. Brunei itself has no ammunition or weapons that contain depleted uranium. Although Brunei itself is not affected by depleted uranium, they are prepared to help other countries and implement measures that can mitigate the effects of DU. These measures are ready to be taken forward in collaboration with WHO or IAEA.
Cuba reiterates its opinion of 2016 that the health risk as well as the environmental risk cannot be denied using depleted uranium, which requires further investigation. Special support is needed from member states that have used DU and they should provide urgent information about it. Moreover, it is inconsistent to use DU in the military sector without restrictions, although there are significant restrictions in other areas. Cuba thus supports any measure to enforce a ban on DU weapons and ammunition.
Jordan, widely known for its peace-oriented policies, also confirms its position on the use of depleted uranium with the new statement. Even though it is depleted uranium, it has over 60 percent of the radioactivity of uranium. This fact inevitably argues for a ban on its use. In addition, the Government of Jordan, as well as Cuba, is pushing for information from member states that have used DU weapons and ammunition.
The fact that the island state of Madagascar signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons 2017 and was also one of the first states in 1970 to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and does not own any nuclear weapons itself underlines the attitude towards the use of DU elsewhere.
Mexico remains committed to the peaceful use of depleted uranium in terms of health, research, industry and electricity production. Already in 2016, Mexico pleaded for more security in the world, which can not only be achieved by weapons, but only based on law, solidarity and cooperation. A separate commission strictly monitors the import and export of DU and can confirm that Mexico does not use depleted uranium in weapons or ammunition.
The Dutch government holds on to its 2016 opinion, stressing that the Dutch military does not use DU ammunition or weapons. However, it cannot be ruled out that the military could come into contact and operate with DU in multinational missions. Despite this, the soldiers deployed are always under close scrutiny as to whether and how their health-related well-being is changing.
Peru advocates using DU only on a case-by-case basis. The Oman further states that the only solution is a complete elimination of all nuclear weapons. Depleted uranium is not even present in Oman for its possible peaceful use.
After Qatar's call for a total ban on DU weapons and ammunition in 2016, the emirate continues to make strong demands. On the one hand, Member States that have used DU must compensate others, on the other hand, further research is needed, its evaluated data has to be made accessible with all that has been collected so far.
Ukraine does not own or uses depleted uranium. Low enriched oil (less than 20 percent uranium) is only used in nuclear reactor research institutes, compatible with national law as well as international requirements, including those of the IAEA.
The IAEA reiterates its position in 2016. When munitions fragments were found in war zones containing DU, a potential risk was identified when it came into contact with the radioactive substance. This risk should be counteracted by measures such as collection, storage and removal of the fragments.
In general, recent reports reaching the Secretary-General reveal certain tendencies: Governments recognize that depleted uranium has a negative impact on the environment as well as on the health of all lifeforms. There is a large willingness to undertake further research. What other governments will say and what kind of discussions will emerge during this year's General Assembly, remains to be seen.
The Swiss institute for the protection of the population against nuclear, biological and chemical threats and dangers, the Laboratory Spiez, collaboration partner of the IAEA, responded to a request from the United Nations and said after examining soil samples in certain areas, that as a conclusion for that region-specific incident a health risk does not exist by air but by the ingestion route. Nevertheless, long term consequences of DU ammunition with respect to groundwater should be monitored.
Also, as an expression of the open trend, the US Air Force discusses the replacing of DU ammunition with the metal tungsten. In general, there a various discussion tendencies to connect the topics environment and armed conflicts with the help of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the International Law Commission (ILC).