An IAEA investigation in Kuwait has found that depleted uranium (DU) from munitions used in the 1991 Gulf War does not pose a radiological hazard to the people of Kuwait.
At the request of the Kuwait Government, in February 2002 the Agency sent a team of senior international experts to assess possible long-term radiological impacts of DU residues at 11 locations in Kuwait.
DU is a mildly radioactive, toxic hard metal with physical properties that make it ideal for military use in armor piercing munitions. The 1991 Gulf War was the first conflict in which DU munitions were used extensively.
The investigation found that potential annual radiation doses from DU exposure are very low and of little radiological concern. Annual potential radiation doses in areas where residues have been found are only a few microSieverts. These levels are well below normal doses the Kuwaiti population receives from natural radiation in the environment and, far below the level recommended by the IAEA that would make remedial actions necessary.
The expert team found complete DU penetrators or fragments in some locations, such as at the oilfields at Manageesh. Prolonged skin contact with these DU residues is the only potential exposure path of any radiological significance, the team concluded.
Around 200 environmental samples, including soil, water and vegetation taken from Kuwait were collected and analyzed. The sites surveyed include places where DU munitions were used during the Gulf War, sites where DU residues still exist and areas where concern had been expressed about possible DU contaminated water and food.
An IAEA report on the full findings of the investigation will be released in coming weeks. The Executive Summary is available now.