A government document from the Safety Services Organisation, dated 23 February, states that there is no objection in principle to the use of Depleted Uranium for projectile cores provided adequate precautions are taken. The document goes further to say that the radiation hazard is likely to be less harmful that its toxicity and pyrophorocity, its ability to ignite. The radiation spread of particles and dust can be monitored and cleaning operations supervised. The testing of these projectiles in remote areas, Eskmeals, Kirkcudbright and Foulness, may enable the military to avoid contamination of other ranges, as the area once contaminated would be un-useable for other firings.



source: robedwards.typepad.com

1977 - 1979

Government documents from 1977 – 1979 (made available in the National Archive in 2011) discuss the testing of DU shells.


Quoting from those documents:


1] a handwritten comment on a Confidential document setting out where tests would best take place, Eskmeals, Kirkcudbright, and/or Foulness:
‘My inclination would be not to mention Kirkcudbright at all at this stage, but to wait until we can point to accident-free experience on English ranges before tackling the Scots. I don’t like the idea of promising consultation “with all those concerned” – which could include the owner of the local sweet shop…’ [JE, Head of DS2]


2] letter from Bruce Millan MP (Scottish Secretary, Labour) to the Prime Minister (James Callaghan), 6 December 1978, as to whether the public at large can be reassured about the tests. He finds that the word “uranium” provokes resentment and suspicion. Anti-nuclear groups in Scotland are protesting against the building of Torness nuclear power station and the land disposal of nuclear waste in Scotland. ‘If any initial evaluation firing programme is to be carried out at the Kirkcudbright range, no doubt this will be represented as further evidence that Scotland is being treated as a “nuclear dustbin”.


3] letter from the Secretary of State for Energy, 18 December 1978
‘The development and storage of depleted uranium ammunition in the UK is bound to arouse public interest and concern for these reasons:
a) Because people will not understand what it is;
b) Because it can easily be made to appear as a weapon marginally crossing the barrier between conventional and nuclear war;
c) Because all matters nuclear are arousing increased public interest especially in terms of side effects.’


The Minister opposes a public announcement of the tests.


4] unattributed document confirming that the trials are investigation possible uses of DU weapons for the UK and US militaries.


5] letter dated 15 March 1977 confirming that DU trials have already taken place in the UK. The document continues: ‘Finally I come to the naming of our innocuous penetrator material. The US have chosen Staballoy. I suggest Durametal or Penetroy. Some such name would help us get round the now rather evocative Depleted Uranium in our communications…


source: robedwards.typepad.com
source: robedwards.com


Test firings begin at Kirkcudbright Training Area (KTA), near Dundrennan, Dumfries and Galloway.


It is not confirmed whether the tests have ended.

1980's - ongoing

MOD: routine environmental monitoring surveys begin in the 1980’s by the MOD to assess any adverse environmental impact. A summary report in 2002 finds that there is no terrestrial or marine contamination above levels set by the National Radiological Protection Board, known as Generalised Derived Limits (GDLs).


source: collections.europarchive.org

1990 – February 1991 (approx)

First Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm; DU weapons used in combat


MOD Confidential Monitoring Reports were placed in the House of Commons Library after questions from MP’s regarding the contamination levels after accidents at Kirkcudbright. Surveys by the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in 1989 and 1990 after ‘malfunctions’ found levels of ground contamination and that current monitoring was insufficiently comprehensive. A spokesman for the MOD responded that ‘There is no evidence at all to suggest that there is any reason to be concerned in any way.’



source: Rob Edwards / Guardian, 1 August 1993


MOD reports that 27 tonnes of DU is fired between 1982 and 1998, with another 1275kg planned to the end of programme in mid-2001.


The Depleted Uranium Firing Environmental Review Committee (DUFERC) meets for the 17th time. The Minutes of those meetings are made available after a Freedom of Information request by Aneaka Kellay of the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) in 2013. The start date for DUFERC is not known, not is the date when it was disbanded.


See the journal for edits of the Minutes of meetings 17 (26 November 1998) – 61 (January 2011).


source: whatdotheyknow.com

1998 – 1999 (approx)

Kosovo War; DU weapons used in combat


source: news.bbc.co.uk


A report by Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) Radiation Protection Services on the Environmental Consequences for DU Firings finds no significant consequences. The possibility for members of the public to be exposed to radiation from penetrators on the Solway seabed, or from terrestrial radiation is assessed as very low.



2001, February

Journalist Rob Edwards in the Sunday Herald publishes an extensive article on the mistakes and misfires at Kirkcudbright, the ensuing levels of contamination and the failure of the marine monitoring as the test area is swept out to sea by the tidal currents. His report is corroborated by several sources, including the DUFERC minutes.


source: robedwards.com
source: robedwards.com/2001

2001, September

The main trial firings of DU-based tank ammunition from land into the Solway Firth at Kirkcudbright were completed, according to the MOD.


source: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk


Further firings took place in February 2003 to confirm the performance of the fire control and sighting system of the Challenger II tank, according to the MOD.


source: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk

2003, February

The retired lieutenant colonel in charge of KTA, Grant Oliver, is reported to state that the official monitoring of the radioactive contamination cause by DU is a ‘cynical ploy designed to reassure a worried public’. The MOD’s environmental surveys are meant to prove that there is no significant hazard.


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald

2003 –– 2011 (approx.)

Invasion of Iraq by US, UK and allied forces; Second Gulf War; DU weapons used in combat. During both Gulf Wars, the British Army fired 2.3 tonnes of DU.

2004, April

Journalist Rob Edwards updates his reports for the Sunday Herald on the contamination of land at Kirkcudbright following misfires, based on MOD documents. The article states that over 6,500 DU rounds have been fired from Kirkcudbright since 1982; 90 rounds have misfired. It quotes the MOD as saying contamination at Kirkcudbright is minimal at the least and that DU ‘has a unique battle-winning capability’.


source: robedwards.com/2004

2007, June

Campaigners ask for the release of NHS files on leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway.
The MOD response is that the risk level to the public is equivalent to a smoke alarm.


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald

2008, April

Journalist Rob Edwards reports for the Sunday Herald on DU soil contamination at KTA.


source: robedwards.com/2008


The stocks of DU held by British Nuclear Fuels Limited is estimated at 30,000 tonnes.


source: wise-uranium.org


MOD says it is to end testing programme at Kirkcudbright. No date given.


MOD is considering renewal of testing DU CHARM3 DU shells fired by Challenger tanks at Kirkcudbright Training Area, to ‘keep their options open’.


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald

2011, January

Last publically available Minutes for Meeting 61 of the Depleted Uranium Firing Environmental Review Committee (DUFERC).


Parliament is misled by armed forces minister Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrat) over a report on the safety of DU weapons and their complies with Geneva Conventions. No report exists.




The estimation is updated to 6,000 shells fired containing 30 tonnes of DU.


Report by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) for the MOD finds no significant contamination and that the firings have presented no health risks to troops involved or to the public.

2012, July

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP who misled the public and Parliament in 2011, launches a review of the legality of DU weapons under the Geneva Convention. Harvey finds that DU shells are ‘capable of being used lawfully by UK armed forces in an international armed conflict’. They do not cause ‘unnecessary suffering’, or pose a “significant risk” to public health or the environment.


Further, Harvey states ‘ Given the challenging situations in which we expect our service personnel to operate, it would be wrong to deny them legitimate and effective capabilities that can help them achieve their objectives as quickly and as safely as possible.’ (see the Policy Statement of the Coalition Government, 2015, below)


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald


Scottish Environment Protection Agency names Dundrennan / Kirkcudbright Training Areas as one of 12 sites in Scotland contaminated by nuclear radiation.


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald

2013, January

Aneaka Kellay from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) files a Freedom of Information Request to the MOD for the minutes of the Depleted Uranium Firing Environmental Review Committee (DUFERC) and the Committee of Environmental Experts on DU Firings (CEEDF). A selection of DUFERC Minutes are made public. Further FOE requests for those Minutes and other documents follow, available online.


source: whatdotheyknow.com

2013, March

Rob Edwards in the Sunday Herald publishes an article based on the FOI released Minutes of the DUFERC meetings (number 36) in which reports that, as the DU is ‘placed’ in the sea rather than dumped, it is not illegal under international law.


source: robedwards.com/2013

2013, April

The MOD reports it will end trials of DU weapons.


source: Rob Edwards / Sunday Herald
source: robedwards.com/2013


The most recent available report on government policy (8 July 2015) states that:


‘UK policy is that depleted uranium (DU) munitions can be used in weapons because it would be wrong to deny our armed forces a legitimate and effective capability that can help them achieve their objectives as quickly and safely as possible. Claims of serious health and environmental effects by a very small number of people attract media attention but are disputed by most scientists and international agencies. Whether other countries use DU munitions or not is a matter for them…’


source: gov.uk
source: gov.uk/government/…/Depleted_Uranium.pdf

2016, July

Early Day Motion 377 in UK House of Parliament brought by Roger Mullin, SNP, MP for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath:


Health Consequences in the Use of Depleted Uranium relating to its use in military action.


source: parliament.uk


The US Military confirms that it has fired Depleted Uranium in the conflict in Syria.