Putin was peddling BS in his threat of nuclear escalation over use of depleted uranium shells
I confess: I took Vladimir Putin at his word, and that was mistake. A couple of days ago, I reported that Putin threatened nuclear escalation over the use of depleted uranium (D.U.) shells by Ukraine, and I termed the U.K.'s supply of them to Ukraine as reckless. But in doing so, I failed to realize that Putin's claims of health risk from the nuclear material were just bogus. As a retired Army officer with experience in these matters emailed me:
I can assure you, if an armored vehicle gets hit by a DU penetrator the crew has far more to worry about than uranium vapors. I.e., the effects are horrific.
As far as health effects of DU Putin was resurrecting unfounded and politically driven propaganda from the post–Gulf War period to hypocritically stoke radiological paranoia. The US had over 20 Gulf War soldiers wounded with DU fragments and they were followed by the Baltimore VA Hospital for any ill effects and there were none; and for those who had children after the war, there were no birth defects. DU has a heavy metal toxicity, but interestingly, the tungsten carbide round it replaces is more toxic. But the bottom line is, as Strieff notes at Redstate, if a tank is hit by a DU round, the crew inhaling DU vapors is the least of their worries. Oh, and by the way, Russia uses DU rounds also.
AT contributor Stephen Bryen's Substack column goes into greater detail on the realities of D.U. ammunition:
The ammunition in question is technically called armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS), long dart penetrator ammunition. APFSDS uses a special penetrating rod made of DU with the addition of titanium and molybdenum. It is highly valued by the military because the DU penetrator is self-sharpening (meaning it does not deform) and pyrophoric. It is highly effective against enemy tanks struck on the side, rear or top, but less so frontally where it can be deflected by sloped armor.
APFSDS penetrators can be made out of materials other than DU, such as titanium.
The Russians call DU ammunition "dirty" weapons.
Depleted uranium is a very heavy, dense metal that is made from uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexafluoride is the gaseous feedstock for centrifuges making weapon's grade fissile U-235 for nuclear weapons. Those who promote the use of DU in weapons argue that DU weapons actually contain less fissile material than natural uranium (but not much less). However, they fail to account for the fact that DU is used in a highly compact form, generally to help penetrate armor and other hardened structures. While field studies are inconclusive, opponents of DU say that DU metal fragments in the soil, and DU dust in the air can cause numerous health problems, including cancer. Even naturally occurring uranium is a toxic material. One scientific study says "The aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites or can be inhaled by civilians and military personnel." There is some evidence that DU ammunition played a role in so-called Gulf War syndrome, and also impacts bone marrow density in soldiers hit by DU fragments.
As the ancient wisdom has it, truth is the first casualty of war. But BS justification often is used when a nation at war wants to escalate.