Reuters reports that part of the latest US military aid package being sent to Ukraine will include armor-piercing munitions made from surplus uranium, whose radioactivity has (mostly) depleted. These weapons aren't new; the US used similar bullets in both Gulf Wars, as well as during the 1999 NATO bombing of what was Yugoslavia. But this is the first time the country will be sending uranium bullets elsewhere (although the UK sent similar munitions to Ukraine earlier this year as well).
The decision is, understandably, not without controversy. From Reuters:
The use of depleted uranium munitions has been fiercely debated, with opponents like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons saying there are dangerous health risks from ingesting or inhaling depleted uranium dust, including cancers and birth defects.
A by-product of uranium enrichment, depleted uranium is used for ammunition because its extreme density gives rounds the ability to easily penetrate armor plating and self-ignite in a searing cloud of dust and metal.
While depleted uranium is radioactive, it is considerably less so than naturally occurring uranium, although particles can linger for a considerable time.
After the UK's shipment of uranium-depleted bullets back in March, Putin told Xi Jinping that if, "the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component," then "Russia will have to respond accordingly."
Exclusive: US to send depleted-uranium munitions to Ukraine [Mike Stone / Reuters]