3 July, 2001
Uranium shell tests halted
Firing was re-started in February

Testing of depleted uranium shells has been halted at the Dundrennan firing range in Kirkcudbright. Defence Minister Lewis Moonie revealed in a House of Commons written answer that the Ministry of Defence has put its firing programme on hold.

The tests caused a storm of controversy after allegations of a possible link between depleted uranium and cancer.

Mr Moonie said the firing programme - which is only half way through - could be resumed.

The tests have been put on hold

The suspension of firing will be welcomed by some residents living near the Dundrennan facility who called for the shell tests to be stopped amid growing fears about the health risks posed by depleted uranium.

The MoD insisted that the environmental contamination caused by the shells was negligible as they were fired into a cloth target and there was no known risk to public health.

There has been no firing at the range recently because of the foot-and-mouth restrictions over access to land.

On Tuesday afternoon, in a written Commons answer, Mr Moonie revealed testing had come to an end.

He said the MoD was satisfied by the quality of the tests on the uranium penetrators - which are used in shells fired by Challenger tanks - and no more are needed.

However, he did not rule out further firings in the future.

Thousands of depleted uranium tipped shells have been test fired from the range into the Solway Firth in the past 20 years.

'Balkan syndrome'

Public concern at the testing has grown following allegations about a possible link between exposure to depleted uranium and cases of cancer among British troops who served in the peacekeeping force in the Balkans.

Nato warplanes dropped 10,000 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995.

Soldiers from several countries, including Britain, Italy, Portugal and France, have fallen ill with what has been dubbed Balkan Syndrome.