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Depleted Uranium sites in Kosovo detailed by UNEP

Geneva, 11 January 2001 - Full details of the sites where depleted uranium (DU) weapons were deployed in Kosovo and inspected by United Nations Environment Programme scientists were unveiled at a press conference in Geneva today.

The information on all 112 sites where depleted uranium was used was supplied to UNEP by NATO. In total, 11 sites were inspected by UNEP's Balkan Task Force team, which was led by Pekka Haavisto, former Finnish environment minister.

The criteria for selecting the 11 sites were based on the amount of ammunition used and the relevance of the sites to the environment and the local population. Three-hundred-and-forty samples were taken at the 11 locations. These included water, soil, vegetation, dust from vehicles and fragments of armaments such as penetrators.

The full findings from the scientific team will be released by early March. The samples are being analyzed by the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI) in Stockholm; AC Laboratorium-Spiez in Switzerland; Bristol University's Department of Earth Sciences in the UK; the International Atomic Energy Agency Laboratories (IAEA) in Seibersdorf, Austria; and the Italian National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPA) in Rome, Italy.

The assessment work on depleted uranium has been financed by the Government of Switzerland. Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, said yesterday, "These leading institutes will assure that we receive an independent and detailed analysis of the samples for both radiation and toxicity." "The team's aim was to obtain basic scientific information that can form a vital input into the on-going discussion of the potential overall risk that ammunition containing DU may pose for the environment and for human health," he said.

Haavisto and Töpfer underlined that the investigation was constructively supported by NATO, its Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). "Out of the 11 sites visited, the team found three sites with no signs of higher radioactivity, nor any remnants of DU ammunition. At eight sites, the team found either slightly higher amounts of Beta-radiation immediately at or around the holes left by DU ammunition, or pieces and remnants of ammunition, such as sabots and penetrators," said Mr. Haavisto.

Mr Topfer reiterated the recommendations made in 1999 by the Balkans Task Force: "Highest priority should be given to finding pieces of depleted uranium and heavily contaminated surfaces. Measures should be taken for the secure storage of any contaminated material recovered." "At places where contamination has been confirmed, measures should be taken to prevent access. The local authorities and people concerned should be informed of the possible risks and precautionary measures," he said.

To follow-up on the results of the November mission to Kosovo, a further assessment team may need to be sent to Kosovo in the spring of 2001 to complete the assessment required for the formulation of conclusions.

The original large-scale map of the 112 sites was displayed at today's conference. A small-scale version, together with additional details, is available at http://balkans.unep.ch.

The locations are identified through reference points on the military grid system.

Note to journalists: For more information, please contact UNEP Spokesperson Mr. Tore Brevik at 00254-2-623292, email: tore.brevik@unep.org;

the Chairman of the UNEP Depleted Uranium Assessment Team, Mr. Pekka Haavisto, at +358-40-588 4720 or pekka.haavisto@upi-fiia.fi;

Henrik Slotte, UNEP Balkans Unit, at +41-22-9178598 or henrik.slotte@unep.ch;

or Michael Williams at +41-22-9178242 or +41-79-409-1528 (portable) or Michael.williams@unep.ch

For the map and other information, see http://balkans.unep.ch.

Photographs of the mission are posted at ftp://unep:unep@194.54.80.239/ .


See also http://balkans.unep.ch

Thursday 11 Jan 2001
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