Tuesday, 7 July 2009

eu commission careless about du contamination

Parliamentary questions
29 April 2009

WRITTEN QUESTION by Marco Cappato (ALDE) and Marco Pannella (ALDE) to the Commission

Levels of uranium in the air over the territory of the European Union

According to data published by the Atomic Weapons Establishment,(1) levels of uranium considerably higher than normal were detected in the air in Berkshire (UK) in March and April 2003 and were reported to the Environment Agency because they exceeded the 1 000 ng/m3 threshold value for notification. According to Professor Chris Busby, these levels can be linked to the use in Iraq during the same period(2) of weapons containing uranium. It had already been shown, in an EU‑wide report in 1999 by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe, that wind-borne particles of uranium could travel hundreds of kilometres.

Can the Commission forward to Parliament all the data it possesses on uranium levels in the air over the entire territory of the European Union in the years 1998‑2005, and ask all the agencies and bodies responsible to supply corresponding data in their possession for the same period?

Did the Atomic Weapons Establishment, the Environment Agency, the Defence Procurement Agency or any other competent body alert it to the fact that warning levels had been exceeded in the UK and, if so, how did the Commission and the UK authorities act on the information?

Is the Commission minded to authorise a study on possible contamination of EU territory, and specifically airspace, resulting from the use of weapons containing uranium?

(2)‘Did the use of uranium weapons in Gulf War 2 result in contamination of Europe? Evidence from the measurements of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire, UK’, C. Busby and S. Morgan, January 2006, European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics.
Original language of question: FR



6 July 2009
Answer given by Mr Piebalgs on behalf of the Commission

The Commission notes that the data reported in the cited publication by the United Kingdom (UK) Atomic Weapons Establishment are referring to ‘total uranium’; they do not distinguish between the various isotopes. Thus, a distinction between depleted uranium (as used in the Iraq war) and natural uranium is not possible. Furthermore, the Commission is not aware of studies that would prove, with scientific evidence, significant dispersion of battlefield depleted uranium over several thousand kilometres (as would have to be the case for a transport from Iraq to the UK).

Data on uranium concentrations in air are available as part of the information submitted by Member States under Article 36 of the Euratom Treaty. However, such data are not relevant to the issue raised by the Honourable Member, since they either relate to uranium mining or milling sites or are below detection limits.

The Commission has not been notified by the UK authorities; indeed, exceeding a notification threshold established by a national authority does not constitute an alert in the sense of the Council decision of 14 December 1987 on Community arrangements for the early exchange of information in the event of a radiological emergency(1) — the ECURIE Decision.

The Commission is of the opinion that continuous monitoring of radioactivity in air as performed in the Union Member States is generally sufficient to detect any contamination significant from a radiological point of view.

(1)87/600/Euratom: Council decision of 14 December 1987 on Community arrangements for the early exchange of information in the event of a radiological emergency, OJ L 371, 30.12.1987.

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