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Friday, September 30, 2022


The U.S. Navy says a Marine fighter jet mistakenly fired 263 armor-piercing shells loaded with depleted uranium during practice exercises over the Puerto Rican island of Vieques earlier this year.
Puerto Rican officials say they were not told about the mistaken use of the radioactive shells during the routine target practice.
A Navy spokesman said Thursday that the Navy had informed all appropriate federal and local agencies following the "isolated, one-time incident." He said the depleted uranium shells were inadvertently loaded aboard the fighter jet in Florida or Virginia. Use of such materiel on Vieques is in violation of federal and local law and of Navy regulations.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials on St. Thomas said they were looking into whether the release of the depleted uranium into the air could affect the territory's population. Although Vieques is about 35 miles to the southeast, residents of the southwestern portion of St. Thomas often hear the sounds of gunfire and see the smoke from bombings in the Navy exercises.
A Freedom of Information request filed with the Navy by Tara Thornton of The Military Toxics Project led to knowledge of the incident. Thornton said the use of the shells poses a health risk because uranium burns upon the firing of the shells and then oxidizes into airborne particles that can be carried great distances by wind and water.
Opponents of the U.S. use of Vieques as a test-firing range for five decades contend that the island has become radioactively contaminated as a result and that its inhabitants have an incidence of cancer double that of Puerto Rico's average.

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