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Depleted Uranium weapons in 2001-2002
Occupational, public and environmental health issues

Mystery Metal Nightmare in Afghanistan?

Collected studies and public domain sources
compiled by Dai Williams, first edition 31 January 2002

[For latest update, October 2002, see also Uranium weapons 2001-2003 - Hazards of Uranium weapons in the proposed war on Iraq ]
including US Patents confirm Uranium warheads.

Context and issues

DU report cover

This research started in January 2001 when first reports of the UNEP Balkans Depleted Uranium (DU) survey included strange anomalies - too little evidence and too much radiation (from dirty DU).

These investigations question one of the best kept military secrets of the last decade. The facts about DU weapons are well known to military experts and arms manufacturers in the US, UK and at least 30 other countries.

But how much do politicians know about them? What have aid agencies been told? And why have the media stayed silent about new weapons in the Afghan war?

The conclusions have immediate implications for the health, safety and welfare of civilians, troops and aid workers in Afghanistan.

They question the role of Governments, UN agencies and the validity of official research studies concerning Depleted Uranium (DU) to date.

They raise serious questions about the global proliferation of DU in military and civilian applications and its suspected widespread use in Afghanistan.

They have fundamental implications for the classification of DU munitions as weapons of indiscriminate effect as defined in the 1st Protocal additional to the Geneva Conventions. Their use is a war crime.

First confirmation of DU contamination & use in missiles

"One site registered an increased level of radioactivity but it appeared to be a result of depleted uranium in some warheads and not from any nuclear or radiological weapon of mass descruction," Rumsfeld said.
[Reuters 16 January 2002]

Appendix A of the UK MoD's latest Proposal for a Research Programme on Depleted Uranium, March 2002 refers to "Anglo-French research on a tandem warhead system with depleted uranium lined rear charge" - a report by DERA (the UK Defence Research Agency) in January 1999. Does this refer to the BROACH warhead in the new Anglo-French "Storm Shadow" cruise missile?

Recommendations include

Urgent identification and verifiable disclosure of the secret "dense metal" used in US and allied guided weapon systems and sub-munitions since 1989. [This is believed to be mainly Depleted Uranium in various alloys with other metals and used in at least three different types of warhead, ammunition or sub-munitions.]

Immediate risk assessments of potential DU contamination in Afghanistan plus relevant health and safety precautions for the population and expatriates, including aid workers and the UN peacekeeping force.

Urgent and rigorous environmental assessments and health monitoring by UN agencies (UNEP, WHO) and aid organisations in Afghanistan.

International vigilance from many countries to ensure that DU risk and casualty assessments are not delayed or compromised by military or political interference as happened after the Balkans War.

International debate, UK media silence and new DU reports

The issues raised in this report were first sent to the UK Government and media on 17 October 2001. They have been raised by several UK MP's in written questions to Government (see Part 2). To date the only media coverage of this report, DU weapons 2001-2002 is Robert James Parsons article in Le Monde diplomatique on 1 March, published in English in the Le Monde supplement of the Guardian weekly on 13 March. However the Internet has enabled over 4,000 people to access the report in the last 4 weeks.

The UK Royal Society second report on Depleted Uranium was published on 12 March 2002. It expresses more concern about potentially lethal effects of acute DU contamination from known DU munitions (30 and 120 mm anti-tank penetrators). Its worst case does not address potential effects of much larger DU warheads but it provides a potential framework for assessing health and environmental effects of severe DU contamination.

The second UNEP Balkans study - on DU contamination in Serbia and Montenegro - was published in March 2002. Like the first study (March 2001) UNEP advised it would be based on assessments of known DU weapons and targets - 30 mm penetrators fired by A10 aircraft. It excluded guided bomb and cruise missile targets. However UNEP were first notified of the concerns in this report in March 2001, months before they visit Serbia and Montenegro. It seems reasonable to conclude that their field surveys have been compromised only to study targets that will not expose the severe environmental and health impacts of guided weapons with large Uranium warheads. Their project for Afghanistan, started September 2002, makes no reference to potential Uranium contamination. According to US and UK Government sources no Uranium weapons were used in Afghanistan. These investigations including the latest data from US Patent records confirming design of guided weapon warheads with uranium components since 1985 suggest otherwise. Check the UNEP website for their recent reports and plans for new studies.

To download the report

The report is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. If you do not have Acrobat Reader you can download a free copy from: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html

The report is available in two PDF versions

1) Complete Report - PDF file size 2,488 kb. (New file added 11 February). This is best if you have fast computer links.

or 2) In 7 parts to make smaller PDF files for slower computer links.

Click the file name to open it and then click the SAVE FILE button (top left in the Adobe toolbar) to download to your computer.

NOTE: These are quite large files. You can view them on-line if you have a fast system. But they will work faster if you down-load them first, and then view them from your own system. Part 3b is a larger file and may take several minutes to download. If you have not used PDF files before see Tips for using PDF files.


Depleted Uranium weapons in 2001-2002
Complete report, 143 pages
full contents list below

File size
2488 kb



Depleted Uranium weapons in 2001-2002
In separate parts
(see contents for each part below)

File size


What is the mystery metal in hard target guided weapons?

433 kb

Part 1

The secret unfolds Investigations & briefings in 2001

257 kb

Part 2

UK Government: DU questions, answers and denials

240 kb

Part 3a

Military uses of DU: Evolution of hard target weapons. DU properties. Weapons technology. Known systems


Part 3b

Military uses of DU: Suspected weapons - Smart or Guided Bombs. Cruise missiles. Sub-munitions.

1216 kb

Part 4

DU weapons review: Human, environmental & political issues

293 kb

Part 5

Conclusions and DU priorities in 2002. Framework for analysis. Interim conclusions. Priorities for action.

196 kb


This Report is based on analysis of public domain sources on the Internet, published news reports and correspondence concerning known and suspected Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons collected from January 2001 to date.

It is designed for on-line viewing (as well as printing) so that readers and researchers can use Internet links to check original sources, and to locate other Internet resources specialising in the health or environmental effects of DU. Some Internet pages referring to DU or hard target guided weapons have been changed or withdrawn from public access since they were first located. This is usually due to website re-design or sometimes to tighter public access controls.

The report raises public policy questions and offers facts and sources as briefing materials for social, medical, environmental, legal and political debate and research. It concerns health and safety risk assessments for employers with civilian or military personnel in Afghanistan.

Parts 1-3 consolidate information about known and suspected DU weapons systems up to and including those used in the Afghan War since October 7th 2001. Part 4 offers seven scenarios for the possible use of DU weapons in Afghanistan. It identifies human, environmental and political issues concerning the use of known and suspected DU weapons of immediate concern in 2002. It relates the questions and issues raised in Parts 1-3 to post-conflict interventions in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees. It raises serious questions about DU research and policy.

The Conclusions in Part 5 highlight the need for immediate precautions against potential DU hazards in Afghanistan and for urgent international interventions for full DU risk assessments. The issues raised here need vigilance by many governments to ensure that the UNEP PCAU (United Nations Environment Programme Post Conflict Assessment Unit) can conduct fast and rigorous environmental assessments of suspected DU contamination in Afghanistan without political, military or commercial interference. The report urges equally fast, rigorous and independent medical and epidemiological assessments of civilians, refugees and troops at risk of DU exposure during or after the Afghan bombing by the WHO and other independent aid or research organisations.

The questions and scenarios raised here will require updating as environmental assessments, humanitarian interventions and weapons investigations proceed. Ideally this should be done by specialists with good resources and direct access to the situation in Afghanistan. The report offers a basis for fast, wide ranging, rigorous and politically independent assessments of DU hazards in Afghanistan. It calls for re-assessment of all military training, weapons testing and conflict zones where suspected DU weapons systems have been used since 1973.

Full Contents


What is the mystery metal in hard target guided weapons?



Jan 2002

Part 1

The secret unfolds - investigations & briefings

Feb 2001


Tip of the Iceberg? DU in smart bombs and missile systems

Feb 25


DU in the Balkans War: UNEP, Dirty DU & missile targets

March 13


DU in the Afghan War

Oct 30


First suspected DU casualties report from Kabul (Reuters)

Oct 29


DU warning to Aid Agencies (Red Cross, Oxfam)

Nov 5


Mystery metal bombs may cause Afghan War Syndrome

Nov 15


Bombing Afghan water supplies (New Scientist 17 Nov)

Nov 21

Part 2

UK Government - DU questions answers and denials


Letter to Sir Paul Beresford MP

Oct 16


Letter to the Prime Minister

Nov 1


UK Government denials from Dr L. Moonie MP and analysis

Nov 19


Extracts from Hansard (1) Sept 11-Nov 11, 2001

Nov 11


Analysis of DU questions & answers in the UK Government

Nov 13


Extracts from Hansard (2) Nov 12 - Jan 31, 2002

Jan 31

Part 3

Military uses of DU - known and suspected weapons

Dec 2001


DU and the evolution of hard target weapons


Properties, advantages and hazards of DU for military use


New weapons technology - known and suspected DU applications


DU armour-piercing ammunition (known) and missiles (suspected)


Smart or Guided Bombs


Hard target cruise missiles


Other suspected DU weapon systems - cluster bombs & SSB's


Part 4

DU weapons review - human environmental and political issues in 2002

Jan 2002


DU scenarios: "what if" DU is used in hard target weapons?


Re-thinking DU: effects of high load DU weapons


High exposure DU health risks - identification and re-assessment


Environmental impacts - assessment and radical re-assessment


Humanitarian aspects of DU risks in Afghanistan


Political context: deception, DU proliferation and control


Part 5

Conclusions and DU priorities in 2002




First edition

31 January 2002


0 953208 3 6 (Hard Copy) 0 953208 3 7 (Digital format- PDF)


Dai Williams, Independent DU researcher


Eos Life-Work, Woking, Surrey UK





Copyright and distribution

Copyright © Dai Williams 2002.
The report contains extracts from public domain sources on the Internet. It is offered back to the Internet community for humanitarian, educational and research purposes. These sources and their copyright are acknowledged.

This report is available as a public domain resource in digital format on the Internet at no cost provided that copyrights are acknowledged and the website link to this page http://www.eoslifework.co.uk/du2012.htm is included. Hard copy versions will be available at a price to cover printing and distribution costs. The report may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the author's prior agreement.

Page updated 13 October 2002 © Eos Career Services 2002

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