The existence of plutonium was confirmed by the two laboratories tasked with analysing the penetrators - the Swiss AC-Laboratory Spiez and the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute (SSI). Together with three other European laboratories, these labs have been analysing a total of 340 soil, water, and other samples taken during the November field mission.
The traces of isotopes Pu-239/240 were found in four different penetrators (ammunition tips). The amount of plutonium in the penetrators varied from 0.8 to 12.87 Bq/kg.
In January, UNEP confirmed that some labs had also found the uranium isotope U-236 in the penetrators. (Note: Bq = becquerel, a measure of radioactivity.)
The presence of these transuranic elements in the DU indicates that at least some of the material has been in nuclear reactors. However, the amount of plutonium found in the DU penetrators is very low and does not have any significant impact on their overall radioactivity.
"According to an assessment by the Swiss AC-Laboratory Spiez, these newest findings about the composition of the depleted uranium only lead to a minor change in the overall radiological situation and should therefore not cause any immediate alarm," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "As we stated earlier*, UNEP's recommendations on what steps should be taken next will be based on the full set of laboratory analyses, which are still ongoing, and will be presented in early March in the report on the environmental effects of DU in Kosovo."
Note to journalists:
For more information, please contact UNEP Spokesperson Mr. Tore Brevik at +254-2-623292 or firstname.lastname@example.org; UNEP Depleted Uranium Assessment Team Chairman, Mr. Pekka Haavisto at +358-40-588 4720 or email@example.com; or UNEP Press Officer Mr. Michael Williams at +41-22-9178242, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also http://balkans.unep.ch
* See press release of 25 January 2001 at balkans.unep.ch UNEP News Release 01/24