The Biden administration is expected to provide Ukraine with controversial depleted uranium ammunition for use with US-made Abrams tanks, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of enriched uranium and is extremely dense, making it a good material for penetrating armor. But depleted uranium is radioactive, and it’s been linked to cancer, birth defects, and environmental damage in areas it’s been used, including Iraq, where US forces frequently fired the toxic munitions and the impact is still being felt today.
According to the Journal report, there has been a debate within the White House over whether or not to provide Ukraine with depleted uranium rounds. Some officials have raised concerns about the criticism the US could face for providing weapons that might cause health and environmental damage.
The Pentagon has been pushing for the US to arm the Abrams tanks it sends to Ukraine with depleted uranium. The US is refurbishing old Abrams tanks that are expected to arrive in Ukraine by the fall.
US-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles can also be armed with depleted uranium, earning them the nickname “tank killer.” Earlier this year, the White House refused to say if it would provide Ukraine with Bradleys armed with the controversial ammunition.
The UK has sent depleted uranium rounds to Ukraine for use with the British-made Challenger 2 tanks. The British took the step despite Russian warnings that it would treat Ukraine’s use of the radioactive ammunition the same as a dirty bomb. Russian President Vladimir Putin said his decision to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus was a response to the UK arming Ukraine with depleted uranium.