Environmentalists and MSP demand cleanup of depleted uranium test site

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland and a member of the Scottish Parliament have demanded the cleanup of the Solway Firth, where the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it had fired more than 6,000 shells containing depleted uranium (DU).


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The demand was made on 8 January after the MoD said it had tested the shells over the last 10 years at the site at Kirkcudbright on the Solway Firth in Western Scotland and left them on the seabed.

“This is a very serious issue, particularly in light of reports of illness among soldiers in Bosnia,” a spokesperson for FoE Scotland said. “We are calling on the Defence Ministry to bring in their detection equipment and remove these shells.”

“If it’s good enough to ban beef on the bone on the basis of a (very small)…risk then it would be very sensible to recover all these DU shells and take them away from the area,” said Scottish Nationalist Party MSP Aladair Morgan.

However, the Minister for the Armed Forces John Spellar, dismissed these concerns in statement to the House of Commons on 10 January. “Safety at the ranges, and in their environs has been a paramount concern,” he said. “The DU firing programme is subject to regulation under the Ionising Radiation regulations 2000. The Environment Agency and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency also have oversight of the firing programme. A detailed review of the environmental impact of firing DU at these ranges was undertaken by independent environmental consultants WS Atkins. The consultants concluded that the radiation doses to members of the public and the associated risks from DU released into the environment were extremely low.”

The issue of the use of DU in the Kosovo and Bosnia conflicts and its possible after-effects on the health of servicemen has attracted widespread international concern this week (see related story in ‘Europe’ section).

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