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Home on the Range

November 22, 2013

Munitions protestors from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) celebrated recent campaign success with a walk-on at the UK’s only depleted uranium (DU) testing range at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright on November 6th.

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With campaign pressure seemingly having caused the Ministry of Defence to drop out of its regular testing schedule for the highly-radioactive weapons this year, CADU and their allies (including a delegation from the Peace Camp) took to the range to keep the issue in the spotlight and push for an outright ban.

DU munitions are used by the UK’s armed forces for their incendiary and armour-piercing properties and maintained in one or more secret stockpiles, undisclosed even to those charged with handling the shells. Both chemically- and radiologically-toxic, dust and detritus from DU weapons has been linked to an increase in cancer and birth defect rates in conflict zones such as Iraq and Serbia, and drinking water in Bosnia-Herzegovina was found to be contaminated years after the end of the Balkans war.

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Over 300 DU tank shells have been fired into the Solway Firth from the range at Dundrennan — none of them recovered — and the range itself features the remains of a tank destroyed by the accidental detonation of DU shells in 1994. As the half-life of the substance is approximately 500,000 years, this hulk is likely to remain there for some time yet.

The UK’s reserve of DU munitions is approaching the end of its deployable lifespan, making campaigners hopeful that it will not be renewed. Meanwhile, actions such as November’s walk-on make it clear that continued testing — or any steps towards a new generation of radio-chemical weapons — will not be tolerated.

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