Depleted uranium said polluting Samawah

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Experts warn that Self-Defense Forces troops risk depleted uranium radiation exposure if they are deployed to Samawah in the south to help rebuild the country.

According to European and U.S. news reports, and testimony by experts who carried out inspections in Iraq, it appears certain that the U.S. used depleted uranium shells in the invasion this year.

But the Japanese government, responding to a question from Mizuho Fukushima, a Social Democratic Party member of the House of Councilors, admits it does not know whether the United States used depleted uranium shells in its invasion of Iraq.

Yuko Fujita, a Keio University assistant professor of environmental physics, said he spotted more than two dozen cartridge cases and tips of depleted uranium shells in the yard of Iraq’s Planning Ministry during a visit in May to survey the country.

“There’s no doubt (the U.S.) used depleted uranium shells,” Fujita claimed. “It’s possible the number may have exceeded the number of (such) shells used during the Gulf War.”

The main ingredient of depleted uranium rounds is uranium 238, which originates in the process of enriching uranium 235 for nuclear fuel from natural uranium ore. Because of their light weight, depleted uranium rounds are less susceptible to wind sheer and have a longer range.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of the U.S. Central Command said U.S. military forces used a very small volume of depleted uranium projectiles in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor quoted U.S. military personnel as saying U.S. forces fired 300,000 depleted uranium rounds from 30-mm machineguns alone.

Quoting a U.S. Army colonel who took part in the invasion, U.S. reporting group CFFTM said the total volume used was about 500 tons.

Samawah, a candidate site for deployment of SDF personnel, is described as a region polluted by depleted uranium shells where increased cases of births of babies with disabilities and infantile cancer have been reported over about five years since the end of the Gulf War.

Some experts have also warned of the risk of radiation exposure for SDF personnel if they are deployed there.

Hisataka Yamazaki, representative of a private depleted uranium shell research group, said, “It is fully possible that (some SDF) personnel may suffer health problems several years later, although it depends on the period of their stay and what they do.”

Fighting in Samawah during the invasion left more than 100 civilians dead.