Depleted Uranium Violates US & International Law

UN Humanitarian Lawyer, Karen Parker, On the Violation of Human Rights in California
By Cathy Garger, Mar 18, 2008, 08:00

A raging human rights battle brewing between the federal Department of Energy and the people of California will soon be coming to a head. Citizen activists and environmental rights groups are up in arms over the right of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) – previously called the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory, and before that, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory – to explode toxic and radioactive materials into California’s air. Ever since this news story broke outside San Francisco in December, 2006, local citizens have opposed the Laboratory’s standard practice of exploding 1,000 lbs. of toxic and radioactive materials annually at its Site 300 location.

The origin of the face off between citizens and the federal government began a month earlier. On November 13, 2006, LLNL had received permission from the local San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) to allow explosions up to 350 lbs. per detonation. The decision to allow larger explosions was appealed and LLNL has since submitted another application for a new permit.

Desiring more “bang” for the taxpayer’s buck, Livermore Laboratory’s most recent April 24, 2007 filing of a permit application with SJVAPCD asked for permission to increase the detonations of sixty (60) dangerous materials – including Depleted Uranium – by 800 (eight hundred) percent.

In recent correspondence with Jim Swaney, Permit Services Manager for SJVAPCD, the permit is still on hold. The snag in the approval process involves the transition of management of the federal facility that develops and “tests” bombs. In October, 2007, the management of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was privatized. As Swaney explained, the new managing firm, Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC informed SJVAPCD “they needed time to finalize their contract procedures and budget the money” necessary for SJVAPCD to hire a contractor(s) to perform an environmental assessment, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Although a permit has been filed for permission to increase the quantity of materials by eight-fold, outdoor explosions of radioactive Depleted Uranium and Tritium is a time-honored tradition at the outdoor Site 300 explosion area. The 7,000 acre site opened for nuclear detonation “experimentation” in 1955 and radioactive explosions have been performed with regularity outside in the greater San Francisco Bay area for over five decades. As stated on the Laboratory’s website, its “explosions, known as shots, result from destructive tests of high explosives… 100 to 200 of them a year in the last 10 years.”

The Livermore Laboratory is seeking to increase these frequent San Francisco Bay area “blasts” from the current 1,000 lbs. to 8,000 lbs. annually. The new permit states that up to 350 lbs. of materials may be detonated per explosion, “with no more than one detonation occurring in any given hour.” Under current provisions, up to 100 lbs. of materials per explosion are allowed.

Among the five dozen substances listed in the permit, public opposition centers around the most hotly contested nuclear weapons material called “Depleted” Uranium. A product of nuclear processing, Depleted Uranium is used in munitions which, when fired or exploded, produce up to 80 percent ceramic Uranium Oxide aerosols. This hazardous material is used in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq – and presumably in Somalia as well.

The use of Depleted Uranium in combat has been declared illegal under the UN Sub Commission of Human Rights. Its use is also a violation of various treaties, conventions, and international laws.

In order to determine the legality of Depleted Uranium use inside the United States via federal “experimentation” and “testing,” I spoke with Karen Parker, JD, founder of the Association Humanitarian Lawyers. The long term proponent of international human rights specializes in humanitarian law and provides expert testimony and legal counsel for the United Nations. In spring, 1996, Parker made a presentation on Depleted Uranium to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

On the matter of the extent that Depleted Uranium causes harm, Ms. Parker has written, “DU weapons ‘kill’ in inhumane ways, causing cancers, kidney problems, eye problems, lung diseases, and according to the medical researchers who have investigated it, many other serious conditions. Additionally, DU weapons cause disabilities in the children of those exposed – cranial-facial anomalies, missing limbs, grossly deformed and non-viable infants and the like – so in this sense are teratogenic.”

“As these conditions can occur to non-combatants or may arise long after military operations have concluded, DU weapons are necessarily inhumane. The teratogenic nature of DU weapons raises the possibility of a genocidal effect. Finally, DU weapons unduly contaminate the natural environment, including water and agricultural land necessary for the subsistence of the civilian population for beyond the lifetime of that population.”

The United Nations Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights passed a resolution in 1996 finding the use DU weapons “incompatible” with existing humanitarian law. This resolution began a series of initiatives by the Sub-Commission on DU weapons and several other weapons of concern, including fuel-air bombs, cluster bombs and “bunker busters.”

Read the entire interview with Karen Parker, and more, here (includes links).

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