Anger as depleted uranium shells to be test-fired again on Scottish soil

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Challenger tanks are to begin test-firing depleted uranium (DU) shells again at the Dundrennan military firing range near Kirkcudbright on the Solway coast in Scotland.

The plans have provoked outrage from environmentalists and from the Scottish Government who claim that it could result in long term radioactive and heavy metal pollution and possible subsequent deadly health effects.

DU is a radioactive and chemically toxic heavy metal waste product produced by the nuclear industry, used to harden armour-piercing shells.  Dust from DU weapons can contaminate wide areas – soldiers and civilians exposed to dust contamination claim to have been victims of birth defects, cancers and other illnesses.

Between 1982 and 2008, over 6000 DU shells were fired at Dundrennan in Dumfriesshire.  Soil samples taken in 2006 showed DU contamination breached agreed safety limits and high levels of DU have been found in earthworms on the site.

The MoD says it wants to retain its DU capability and any replacement or modification of Challenger tank DU shells require testing at Dundrennan.

Aneaka Kellay  from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium said: “Current plans to extend the life of the UK’s DU ammunition will entail more testing at Dundrennan, unless the Government at last recognises DU’s unacceptability and removes this toxic Cold War relic from its arsenal.”

Campaigners cite evidence that MoD tests suggest German-made tungsten shells perform better than DU shells.

An early day motion in Westminster criticises DU for leaving a “toxic legacy” and calls on the UK Government to cease allowing the use of DU.

The motion is supported by 23 MPs, including the SNP leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson; Conservative backbencher Peter Bottomley; four LibDems; three members of Plaid Cymru; and 11 Labour MPs.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While this is a reserved matter, the MoD has assured the Scottish Government it will provide early notification of any test firing of depleted uranium shells at Kirkcudbright.”

The Scottish Government remains “strongly opposed” to DU testing on Scottish soil.