Christian Werner | Depleted Uranium: The Silent Genocide

Country of origin: Germany
Project location: Balkan Region
Program: Magnum Foundation Fund
Year: 2014

Uranium ammunition – that means “DU”, depleted uranium. It is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium. Most depleted uranium arises as a byproduct of the production of enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors and in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

Who remembers the Iraq war? The country was bombed in 2003. During the three weeks of bombardment, thousand tons of uranium ammunition dropped on cities like Basra and Fallujah and their inhabitants. Damaged but still radiating tanks are standing at the radial roads and testify to the bombardment during the gulf wars.

Now, the wrecks and ruins are playgrounds for children, the population uses the contaminated scrap metal and collects souvenirs of the war. The war is over but many people come into contact with the radioactive material – and they contract leukemia. In addition to Iraq, the uranium ammunition was used in the Indian-Pakistani frontier conflict, in Chechnya, during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, in the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. Thousand tons of uranium ammunition have been used recently. Military uses include defensive armor plating and armor-piercing projectiles.

The use of DU in munitions is controversial because of questions about potential long-term health effects. It is weakly radioactive and remains so because of its long radioactive half-life. The aerosol or spallation frangible powder produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites, leading to possible inhalation by human beings. After the Gulf War, the cancer quota rises and a high number of cases of congenital abnormalities was detected.

Every day, children are born, who have two heads, no eyes, a spina bifida, palatine clefts or missing arms and legs. The disastrous effects are now visible, but reports and surveys about the consequences are still missing.

Christian Werner is a freelance multimedia/photojournalist based in Boitzum, Germany. Chris, born in 1987, studied from 2009 to 2014 photojournalism and documentary photography at the University of Hanover. He works as a freelance photojournalist and published his photos and stories, among others, in Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, TIME Magazine, The Washington Post and many more. From 2012 -2016 Christian Werner was represented by the German reportage agency laif. In late 2016 Chris is represented by Zeitenspiegel. His photographic focus is the processing of social injustice, conflicts and geopolitical issues. His work has been awarded several times and frequently exhibited internationally. In 2015 Chris participated at the World Press Joop Swart Mastercalss in Amsterdam. 2016 Chris has been chosen in the 30 under 30 Europe Forbes List in the Media category. In late summer 2016 he begins working with MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station).