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UN experts end mission to 6 depleted uranium sites in Serbia, Montenegro

UN experts end mission to 6 depleted uranium sites in Serbia, Montenegro

United Nations experts have found depleted uranium (DU) contamination in four of the six sites in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia targeted during the 1999 Kosovo conflict by ordnance containing the substance, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) agency said today.

A UNEP team wrapped up yesterday its weeklong visit to Serbia and Montenegro after authorities there requested the mission. The work was built on a study published earlier this year by UNEP on the environmental impact of DU in Kosovo.

The team visited five target areas in southern Serbia in the Presevo Valley - Pljakovica, Borovac, Bratoselce, Bukurevac and Reljan - and the only DU site in Montenegro, Cape Arza in Lustica. At all of these sites the team conducted beta and gamma measurements, and took more than 200 air, water, soil and bioindicators (lichen, moss and bark) samples, UNEP said.

The team also collected three DU penetrators from the sites for further analysis and made smear tests of the penetrators. In addition to the visits to the DU sites the team was able to visit the Vinca laboratory near Belgrade, where the previously removed DU material has been stored. It also took samples from one military vehicle that had been targeted with DU ammunition.

While confirming the existence of DU at four of the six sites, the team concluded, based on the beta- and gamma-measurements conducted on-site, that there was no widespread contamination in the areas, according to the agency.

The authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and of Montenegro have already posted warning signs in these areas and isolated them with fences from the public's use and begun clean-up activities and decontamination. The most extensive clean-up work has taken place in Cape Arza, where the Montenegrin environmental authority, together with military experts, have been working for several months to decontaminate the DU site.

The UNEP mission included specialists from the Greece, Italy, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).