16/01/2001
Press Release
UNEP/81



UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME CONFIRMS URANIUM 236 FOUND


IN DEPLETED URANIUM PENETRATORS


GENEVA, 16 January (UNEP) -– Early laboratory results confirm that pieces of depleted uranium (DU) penetrators found at sites targeted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the 1999 Kosovo conflict contain Uranium 236, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported here today.


Scientists working for the UNEP Depleted Uranium Assessment Group are analysing the contents of the seven penetrators –- ammunition tips made out of depleted uranium -– found during a UNEP field mission to Kosovo in November 2000.


Isotope analyses to determine the types of uranium present show that

0.0028 per cent of the uranium in the penetrators is in the form of isotope U-236.  The presence of U-236 indicates that part of the DU came from reprocessed uranium.  This information was provided by one of the five laboratories being used by UNEP for its DU assessment work.  According to the laboratory, the content of U-236 in the depleted uranium is so small that the radiotoxicity is not changed compared to DU without U–236.  However, the final assessment by UNEP will be made only once results from all laboratories are available.


“This is first laboratory result based on our field work”, said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.  “We have asked the World Health Organization and all of our other partners for their assessments of this finding while we continue with the scientific analysis.”


UNEP’s Kosovo field mission team, consisting of 14 experts from several countries, collected soil, water, and vegetation samples, conducted smear tests on buildings and destroyed army vehicles, and found penetrators and sabots.  Remnants of DU ammunition were found at eight of the 11 sites that were visited.


The 340 samples collected are now being analysed for both toxicity and radioactivity in five European laboratories in an effort to determine whether the use of DU during the Balkans conflict may pose any risks to human health or the environment.


The results of the tests will be ready in early March, when UNEP will publish a full report of its findings.


Note to journalists:  For more information, please contact UNEP Spokesperson Tore Brevik at +254-2-623292 or tore.brevik@unep.org; the UNEP Depleted Uranium Assessment Team Chairman Pekka Haavisto at +358-40-588 4720 or pekka.haavisto@upi-fiia.fi; or UNEP press officer Michael Williams at +41-22-9178242, +41-79-409-1528 or michael.williams@unep.ch.  See also http://balkans.unep.ch.


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