(NewsReady.com) – The US has announced that when it delivers M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine later this year, they’ll come with Depleted Uranium (DU) ammunition for their main guns. This isn’t a surprise to military analysts, but Russia has reacted with outrage. Hypocritically, the Kremlin is claiming the armor-piercing shells are “inhuman.”
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the process of manufacturing nuclear fuel. During the enrichment process, natural uranium is spun in centrifuges to separate out the heavier, unreactive U-238 isotope, leaving a higher concentration of fissile U-235, which can be used for reactor fuel or nuclear weapons. Originally it was a waste material — but in the 1970s, the US realized its hardness and density (it’s 1.6 times as dense as lead) made it the perfect material for armor-piercing shells; DU rounds are 20% better at penetrating armor than tungsten ones. However, the metal ignites after penetrating a tank, and often contaminates the interior and impact site with toxic — not radioactive — dust.
In March, the UK said the Challenger 2 tanks it was sending to Ukraine would be armed with DU shells, sparking a hysterical outburst from Russia. Putin’s regime accused Britain of supplying weapons with “a nuclear component” and called it an escalation of the war. Now the US has finally confirmed that it will be supplying 120mm DU rounds with the M1 tanks it’s sending this year, despite earlier denials. Predictably, Russia let go with another outburst; the country’s Washington embassy called the decision “an indicator of inhumanity.”
The question Russia won’t answer is that if DU shells have a nuclear component and are inhuman, why has it been using them itself since the first day of its invasion of Ukraine? The standard armor-piercing round for the 125mm guns on Russia’s T-72 and T-90 tanks is the 3BM59 “Svinets-1” — and it fires a 19-pound depleted uranium dart.
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