WRITTEN QUESTION 687/2006 vp The ban on the use of depleted uranium in weapons in the UN and the answer of the Finnish Minister of FA
KK 687/2006 vp - Pentti Tiusanen /vas ym.Translation
WRITTEN QUESTION 687/2006 vp
The ban on the use of depleted uranium in weapons in the UN
To the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
Uranium weapons have been used in Iraq wars in 1991 and 2003, in Bosnia in the 1990s, in Kosovo in 1999 and very likely in Afghanistan in 2002. At the moment, it is estimated that at least 18 countries have a possibility to use uranium weapons made of depleted uranium.
Uranium weapons are very effective armour penetrators. They have been used to destroy armoured vehicles and bunkers. Uranium is a radioactive heavy metal, which penetrates armour effectively, and when piercing the armour it creates a temperature of 3,000 – 6,000 degrees Celsius.
Depleted uranium used in uranium weapons is a side product of produsing radioactive fuel. The isotope of depleted uranium is U-238, which has a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years, in other words the same as the age of the Earth. Uranium weapons affect ecology. When the shells burst, they create uranium oxide dust particles, which spread in the environment uncontrollably and attach to living organisms and various structures, such as scrap metal. Uranium oxide dust is dangerous due to its radioactive effect and biochemical toxicity.
Iraqi people, for instance inhabitants in Basra region, but also US army soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait, have inhaled dust from the depleted uranium weapons. In Basra region there is a considerable increase in the occurrence of various cancers and abnormal birth defects compared to the time before the war.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons is a network that requests national parliaments and the United Nations to implement a total ban on uranium weapons. During the European Union presidency, Finland has a greater opportunity to advance a total ban on uranium weapons.
The UN resolution on a complete ban of uranium weapons is supported by the assessment of post-conflict impacts in the Balkans carried out by the UN Environment Programme UNEP. It was done in cooperation with IAEA and WHO. This assessment suggests further studies on environmental impacts of the dust produced by weapons containing depleted uranium. The UN Secretary-General stated in November 2002 that new technologies, such as depleted uranium ammunition, threaten the environment.
The UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has approved the resolutions 1996/16 and 1997/36, in which it emphasises the inhumane effects of weapons containing depleted uranium on indiscriminate targets and urges a complete ban on the use of them.
Based on the above and referring to the parliamentary agenda item 27 §, we make the following question to the minister concerned:
What measures does the Government intend to take to implement the UN resolution to ban weapons containing depleted uranium?
In Helsinki on 14 September 2006
Pentti Tiusanen / Left Alliance
Satu Taiveaho / The Finnish Social Democratic Party
Heidi Hautala / The Greens
Kari Uotila / Left Alliance
Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara / The Coalition Party
Marjaana Koskinen / The Finnish Social Democratic Party
Toimi Kankaanniemi / Christian Democrats
To the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
In the parliamentary agenda item 27 § you, Speaker of Parliament, have delivered the written question KK 687/2006 below, made by Pentti Tiusanen /Left Alliance et.al. to be answered by the minister concerned:
What measures does the Government intend to take to implement the UN resolution to ban the weapons containing depleted uranium?
In reply to the question I state the following:
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons ICBUW has called on the Finnish Government, especially as President of the EU, to further the acceptance of a resolution to be submitted to the UN General Assembly on a ban of uranium weapons.
The health and environmental effects of the use of weapons containing depleted uranium have been discussed recently. Depleted uranium used in weapons is a chemically toxic and low radioactive side product of the production of nuclear fuel. The health of peacekeepers, for instance, and their exposure to uranium is followed now in several countries, also in Finland.
Uranium weapons have been used, inter alia, in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s and in Iraq in 1991 and 2003. Several countries have weapons made of depleted uranium in their arsenal. Up till now there is no international convention banning the use of these weapons, and a ban on weapons containing depleted uranium is not on the agenda of any international arms controlling forum.
In the arms controlling sector there are many challenges at the moment, and any notable progress has not been made. In the UN General Assembly of this year the most important new initiative in the arms controlling sector is the Arms Trade Treaty ATT. It is the purpose of Finland to forward it: we are one of the seven main sponsors and we have strongly supported it.
For these reasons submitting the issue to the agenda of arms control just now without any notable groundwork would be difficult for Finland even as President of the EU and would not serve the purpose.
The Government considers the ban on weapons containing depleted uranium a goal of vital importance and will try to forward it at a more suitable time.
Helsinki, 6th October 2006
Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs.