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Unexploded ordnance

From Academic Kids

Unexploded ordnance (or UXOs) are explosive weapons (bombs, shells, grenades, etc.) that did not explode when they were employed, and still pose a risk of detonation, decades after the battles in which they were used.

Unexploded ordnance from at least as far back as World War I still pose a hazard worldwide, both in combat areas and military testing ranges.

In the Ardennes region of France, large-scale citizen evacuations were necessary during UXO removal operations in 2001. In the forests of Verdun French government "demineurs" working for the Department du Deminage still hunt for poisonous, volatile, explosive munitions and recover about 900 tons every year. The most feared are those corroded shells containing poison gas, which can cause blindness or a slow, painful death from burned lungs. According to the film "Aftermath", these demineurs "have gathered more than twenty million shells but have lost six hundred demineurs. At this pace France will be fully cleared and safe -- in seven-hundred years."

One dramatic example of the threat of UXO is the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery off the coast of Kent, which still contains 3000 tons of munitions. When a simliar WWII-era ship exploded in 1967, it produced an impact measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale.

According to US Environmental Protection Agency documents released in late 2002, UXO at 16,000 domestic inactive military ranges within the United States pose an "imminent and substantial" public health risk and could comprise the largest environmental cleanup ever, with a pricetag that begins at $14 billion. Some individual ranges cover 500 square miles, and, taken together, the ranges comprise an area the size of Florida.

Beyond the obvious danger of explosion, buried UXO also entails the risk of environmental contamination. In some heavily used military training areas, munitions-related chemicals such as explosives and perchlorate (a component of pyrotechnics and rocket fuel) can enter soil and groundwater. A prominent example exists at the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA), where decades of artillery training has contaminated the only drinking water for thousands of surrounding residents. An expensive UXO recovery effort is under way there.

The country of Laos has the distinction of being one of the world's most heavily bombed nations. During the period of the American Vietnam War, over half-a-million bombing missions dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance on Laos, most of it anti-personnel cluster bombs. Each cluster bomb shell contained hundreds of individual bomblets, "bombies", about the size of a tennis ball. An estimated 30% of these munitions did not detonate. Ten of the 18 Laotian provinces have been described as "severely contaminated" with artillery and mortar shells, mines, rockets, grenades, and other devices from various countries of origin. These munitions pose a continuing obstacle to agriculture and a special threat to children, who are attracted by the toy-like devices.

In the London Blitz, any unexploded bomb was referred to as a UXB. In artillery, especially on practice ranges, an unexploded shell is referred to as a blind.

See also

da:Forsager de:Blindgänger

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