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Depleted uranium ban welcomed

Media release: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Depleted uranium ban welcomed

18 June 2009

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Aotearoa Section welcomes the entry into force this weekend of Belgian legislation that prohibits government investments in firms that manufacture, use or possess armour and munitions that contain depleted uranium (DU).

"This legislation complements the ban on the manufacture, testing, use, sale and stockpiling of uranium weapons which was passed unanimously by the Belgian parliament in 2007 and which also takes effect this weekend", said Christine Greenwood. "Although Belgium is not itself a user of DU munitions or armour, NATO Headquarters and military command are based there, and United States' uranium shipments regularly travel through the port of Antwerp", she continued.

DU is a waste by-product of uranium enrichment for nuclear fuel and weapons, and is a radioactive and chemically toxic heavy substance. It is used by some armed forces in armour piercing munitions and battle tank armour. DU munitions were widely used by US and British military forces in the Gulf War in 1991, subsequently in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, and in Iraq since 2003.

When DU munitions or armoured tanks burn, they release a hazardous dust which can contaminate wide areas. There are numerous reports of cancers, birth defects and other illnesses affecting civilians and soldiers exposed to DU contamination.

As data linking uranium exposure to health problems increases, WILPF urges the New Zealand government to support the 94% majority of the EU Parliament calling for a moratorium on uranium weapons, and the 141 countries who supported a resolution to the UN General Assembly requesting further investigation into the health and environmental impact of DU.

"We call on the government to pass similar legislation to that of Belgium - both to ban DU munitions and armour, and to prohibit government and Crown Financial Institution investments in firms that manufacture, use or possess armour and munitions that contain DU. Beyond that, New Zealand should be playing a leading role in getting a global ban on DU munitions and armour in place", Ms Greenwood concluded.


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