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New Internationalist

Depleted Uranium

Just one microscopic particle of depleted uranium lodged in the lungs can start a reaction in a single cell that could lead to fatal cancer. It's unfortunate, then, that the world has an estimated one million tonnes of this dangerous waste - and a very limited means to get rid of it. In this program we'll hear how, why and where it's being dumped… and the injuries and deaths that are being caused as a result.

Storing depleted uranium (DU) is not a viable long-term option: it takes 4.5 billion years for just half of it to turn into lead, and keeps eating through the containers in which it is stored. So countries are giving it away - to weapons manufacturers, who turn it into weaponry that they sell back to governments. It's very effective in weapons: piercing tanks and armor like a hot knife through butter. However, its long-term impacts are cruel and inhuman. With a range of international guests, New Internationalist co-editor Dinyar Godrej joins Chris Richards to report on how DU waste now contaminates a string of ‘enemy' countries. As a result, thousands of civilians are - and will continue to be - reporting cancer and abnormalities at rates never before experienced well after their war is over:

  • Having sent troops into places marked on maps as being contaminated with depleted uranium, the US army told their troops in Iraq that depleted uranium was so safe that it could be sprinkled on breakfast cereal. Now Retired Staff Sergeant Herbert Reed is living with the legacy - including nerve damage, respiratory problems, pain, paralysis, and internal bleeding.
  • When John LaForge from Nukewatch went knocking at the door of the number-one producer of depleted uranium weapons in the United States, he and three other non-violent protestors were arrested for trespassing. In his defence, he asked a jury to find that the munitions manufacturer was the real criminal, not those who protested against it. The jury did.
  • The movement against DU is growing. In March this year, the Belgian Parliament voted to ban depleted uranium ammunition. Then there's the ultimate campaign result - peace glorious peace. Dekha Abdi is a peace-builder - forging viable ways to resolve conflict without violence. She's one of the recipients this year of a Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize) for outstanding vision and work on behalf of the planet and its people. She shares some of her rich experiences with us.

Reflecting our hope for the future, today's CD is called Ceasefire. Inspired by peace-talks in Sudan between the Muslim North and the predominantly Christian South, Emmanuel Jal, a Christian rapper from the South, gets together with Abdel Gadir Salim, a Muslim musician from the North to show what colourful, dynamic sounds are produced when two different cultures work side-by-side.

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