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Victory in campaign to halt planned test firing of depleted uranium in Scotland

Campaigners, parliamentarians and local people have blocked a fresh round of DU testing at the Dundrennan range in Scotland after the MoD shelved plans for the testing necessary to extend the life of the UK’s final DU round.
29 April 2013 - ICBUW

Last week Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, told Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, that the MoD will not fire depleted uranium (DU) as part of the  current Life Extension Programme. This is the first time that the MoD has bowed to public and political pressure and not fired DU as part of the life extension programme (LEP) for its CHARM3 tank round.

Dundrennan map CHARM3 is the UK’s only remaining DU round. It comes in two pieces – the uranium dart and a propellant charge. The license for the charge expires every five years, the current expiry date falling in 2013. Despite local and national objections, the MoD has fired 31 tonnes of DU from the Dundrennan Range near Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, into the Solway Firth since 1982.

In the months leading up to the decision, both Philip Dunne and Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond, have responded to questions from MPs (see notes below) with what anti-DU campaigners claim were evasive answers in an attempt to avoid being pinned down on this issue. Dunne’s latest response, stating that the current LEP will not involve the firing of DU has been seen as major victory for members of both the Scottish and UK Parliaments and anti-DU campaigners.

Dr Aileen McLeod MSP Local MSP Aileen Mcleod said: “There’s no question as far as I am concerned that this is a clear u-turn on the part of the UK government. Until now they have only ever been willing to say there are no current plans to test-fire DU munitions. The concerted efforts of the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium have obtained the clearest statement to date that there are in fact no plans to test fire DU shells at all during the current, planned life extension programme of the munitions.

“Although this is a big step forward, the campaign must continue until there is a clear guarantee that there will be no more test firing of DU shells in Scotland at any point in the future.”

The MoD denies campaigners’ claims that this is a climb down. A spokesman for the MoD told journalists that: “The propellant charge life extension programme has never required the firing of depleted uranium itself, a situation which is entirely unconnected to campaigns against test firing.”

This is disputed by CADU. Campaigner Rachel Thompson said: “The MoD's sudden assertion that extending the life of its DU ammunition would not involve live firing is disingenuous in the extreme. Firing into the Solway has followed a predictable pattern for many years and it is clear that this U-turn is linked to increased parliamentary and public opposition to this environmentally dubious and potentially illegal practice. This is a major victory for our campaign and one that reflects the increasing global opposition to DU weapons.

“Research by CADU has shown that the MoD has a long history of spinning DU issues to distract attention from their intrinsic public unacceptability. The recent and absurd suggestion that DU rounds are ‘placed’ and not dumped in the Solway Firth, made in order to sidestep a ban on toxic waste dumping at sea, highlights the lengths they will go to. We call upon the MoD to state clearly and unequivocally that they will never test-fire in Scotland again.”

katy clark MP Katy Clark MP said: “It has been difficult to get a straight answer from them. It looks like they have been shifting their position as more questions are asked. It is important there is scrutiny of the government and that they are honest with the public about what is being done in our name particularly given the potential health concerns.”

CADU campaigners plan to hold a public meeting in Dumfries at the end of May to discuss further plans with local residents. More details will be released on their website www.cadu.org.uk

Notes:

Parliamentary questions and answers on the topic:

Nick Harvey to Philip Dunne 26th Nov 2012 - 2013 will involve testing - doesn't specifically say whether it is DU or an alternative but it has always been interpreted as firing DU. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-11-26d.129318.h&s=depleted+uranium

Nick Harvey 18th January - Site for testing of propellant charge has not been selected yet. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-01-18a.137653.h&s=depleted+uranium

Katy Clark 4th March - 'No plans to test fire at kirkcudbight' http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-03-04a.145504.h&s=date%3A20130304+column%3A846+section%3Awrans

Nick Harvey to Philip Dunne on 5th March - Regular testing of CHARM3 propellant charge will take place whilst ammunition in service - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-03-05a.146136.h&s=depleted+uranium

Katy Clark - testing of CHARM3 does not involve test-firing of depleted uranium http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-04-15b.150934.h&s=depleted+uranium

Press coverage:

Victory for uranium campaigners http://www.dgstandard.co.uk/galloway-news/news/2013/05/02/victory-for-uranium-campaigners-51311-33268995/

Dundrennan weapon test fears allayed http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-22365266