Simon Schmitt

Head Communication & Media Relations
Science Editor
Communication & Media Relations
Phone: +49 351 260 3400

Release of depleted uranium from ammunition

In a unique long-term study, scientists from GSF Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit cooperated with Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD), investigating the behaviour of armour piercing ammunition in the soil, which is exposed to weathering and leaching. The results show that the ammunition rapidly disintegrates and uranium compounds can get into the ground water.

Part of a DU penetrator after corroding for three years
Visibly corroded: armour piercing ammunition after three years
In order to investigate the process of weathering closely, soil conditions were simulated in the lab. The scientists filled test pipes with different soils, and uranium ammunition was buried in it. A total of six test pipes were investigated under controlled conditions within three years. The result: when uranium ammunition is exposed to weathering, uranium minerals are formed, e. g. sabugalite, in which toxic uranium is tightly bound. This process does not take very long. Scientists estimate that bullets could completely transform into sabugalite within only 50 years. As a consequence, water soluble compounds are formed, which get into leakage water, thus threatening ground water, soil and plants.