Depleted Uranium ammunition is most commonly used (by the U.S.) in two weapons: APFSDS tank gun ammo
of 105 and 120 mm, and in the 30mm slugs fired by the GAU-8
30 mm cannon carried only by the A-10 Thunderbolt II
ground-attack aircraft, more commonly known as the Warthog
for its somewhat unlovely profile. (Actually, that's a matter of opinion; I think it looks damn cool
, but then again, I'm a warmonger
Depleted uranium is very, very slightly radioactive. However, so is cigarette smoke (contains thorium, among other things) just to keep this in context. In addition, given that the main use of this stuff (in this application) is to break things and kill people, whether or not it leaves slightly radioactive (again, cigarette smoke-level, or less than an x-ray) remains about seems academic. The effluvia from a burning destroyed armored vehicle is far more dangerous to the environment and any nearby personnel than such remains might be. Burning plastic, aluminum, and rubber, not to mention all the nasty stuff used in modern electronics, plus an entire fuel load of diesel or turbine fuel, plus any ammunition the target tank was carrying, dwarfs the contamination of the DU.
If I was ever to be one of the guys who had to follow tanks into combat (tanks can't survive without infantry) I'd cheerfully accept the risks of toxics if it meant the tank I was walking next to had a better chance of killing the tanks across the way that wanted to kill me.
, regarding your writeup below, a couple of points. First of all, your assertion that the correlation
between 'areas where DU was used' and the increase in 'illness and cancer' is a tad spurious
. For one thing, 'places where DU was used' tends to have a high correlation with 'places where highly destructive weapons of various types were used, often extensively.'
The Gulf War saw many other forms of documented toxics release, from the U.N. forces destroying chemical weapons stocks to the deliberate contamination of enormous swaths of land and sea by the release and/or burning of thousands of tons of petroleum, a substance from which most of our daily carcinogens are originally extracted. Documented use of chemical weapons also occured in the region, before and after Desert Storm, when Saddam Hussein gassed rebellious villagers in his own country.
The Vieques range, while of course taking DU fire, was also used for years (and continues to be) for the testing of both conventional and rather exotic conventional explosive munitions - compounds of high complexity and, compared to an inert DU shell (inert in the explosive sense) of extremely high dispersal and distribution from their means of employment. Finally, Kosovo has spent several years enduring the use of tons and tons of conventional weapons, the aerosoling of nasty stuff ranging from concrete and asbestos (silicosis, anyone?) to gasoline and diesel (petrochemical toxics).
In sum, these three environments also have an extremely high level of other contaminants, many of which have been documented to produce some of the same symptoms as radiation sickness (the lighter petrochemicals can cause loss of hair, nausea, and body chemistry disorders as well as cancer, for example). While I don't wish to claim that DU cannot be the culprit, I would very much like to see the reports you mention (references?) so that I might evaluate them for myself.