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Swiss find minute traces of plutonium in Balkan weapons

Tests of depleted uranium weapons have only shown minute traces of plutonium

(Keystone Archive)

A Swiss laboratory has found only scant traces of plutonium in depleted uranium weapons used by Nato-led forces in the Balkans, Swiss German radio reported on Wednesday. It said the traces were so small as to pose no health risk.

The radio said the findings of the laboratory in Spiez confirmed the results of a separate German investigation, which found no traces of highly toxic plutonium in Nato ammunition used during the Balkan conflicts.

"It is already clear that only extremely small - if any - traces of plutonium were found in the shells and shell fragments that were checked, and these in no way pose a potential health risk, according to scientists," the radio said.

Switzerland ordered the checks last month amid concern that the munitions used in Kosovo and Bosnia may have contained substances harmful to the health of peacekeepers, aid workers and civilians.

Reports from across Europe suggest that a number of foreign troops could have contracted cancer following contact with depleted uranium weapons.

Swiss defence ministry spokesman, Oswald Sigg, told the radio that the findings of the Spiez laboratory would be released in full later in the week. "But we can already confirm the same trend that the German investigation found."

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) sent a mission to Kosovo when reports of the health risks from depleted uranium weapons first emerged. Experts collected samples of soil, water and vegetation, which were sent for analysis in laboratories across Europe.

The Spiez laboratory said it had found traces of enriched uranium in the samples it tested, but the amounts concerned were too small to pose any danger.

swissinfo with agencies


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