Currently, of greatest concern to human health and the biosphere are the biological and environmental effects of the class of ship, air and ground launched weapons deployed by NATO and Allied forces in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Due to the presence of radioactive materials and the radiological effects of these weapons, they can be classified as “radiological weapons”. They may go by other names, such as: radiation dispersion weapons, “dirty bombs”, uranium-alloyed weapons, heavy metal or heavy alloy weapons and composite uranium-high explosive ordnance.
Publicly, the best know weapons are the uranium-alloyed kinetic energy penetrators (KEP’s) deployed in Operations’ Desert Storm and later in Operations’ Desert Fox and Allied Force. In addition, a new class of uranium alloyed and uranium-composite weapons is being postulated. Based on government reports and independent research, there is a growing body of evidence indicating the development and use of uranium in hard-target, deep-penetration, and DBHT (deeply buried hard target) weapons that combine uranium with high explosives (HE). This new generation of weapons is considered to contain Non-Depleted Uranium that is extracted from the nuclear fuels and nuclear weapons production cycles prior to the uranium enrichment phase. It is not yet determined if the feed stocks and metal inventories of these weapons contain transuranic products. These weapons are distinguished from Depleted Uranium kinetic energy penetrators (KEP’s) in a number of ways:
- use of pure uranium (not DU) makes the weapons significantly more radioactive;
- warheads are believed to contain much higher volumes of radioactive material (100’s to 1000’s of kilograms verses the 2 to 8 (+/-) kilograms of KEP’s;
- thermo-ballistic and pressure effects along with the mass of Uranium-HE composite weapons releases higher total volumes and concentrations per cubic meter of air, of aerosolized contaminant; and,
- there are no figures about the number of these weapons in use or explicit public admissions of their existence by NATO.