3| A New Kind of Nuclear War (Excerpt)

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the United States would be detonating nuclear shells to poison its own soldiers and the surrounding civilian populations with radioactive isotopes.

Dr. Helen Caldicott

The United States has conducted two nuclear wars. The first against Japan in 1945, the second in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991.

The first nuclear war fissioned a plutonium bomb and one made of uranium. The second nuclear war utilized depleted-uranium weapons, but nuclear fission was not involved.

For many years the United States has been using depleted uranium, a by-product from the production of enriched fuel for nuclear reactors and weapons, to manufacture shells, bullets and protective armour of tanks. This excess uranium, composed mainly of the uranium isotope U-238 is called "depleted" because it has a lower than normal content of the isotope U-235, the fissionable material. But it has one very "excellent" property—it is extremely dense and capable of penetrating heavily armored vehicles. This capability was ably demonstrated in the Gulf massacre of 1991. "Massacre" describes what happened better than "war."

But another physical property, which is not so desirable, is that depleted uranium spontaneously burns on impact, creating tiny aerosolized particles less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled. At least seventy percent of the uranium in these weapons is released in this form on impact, and these tiny particles travel long distances when airborne.

The full text of this chapter is available in the book, Metal of Dishonor. Link here for order information.




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