- ICBUW, Willem van den Panhuysen, tel:+32 473 71 75 18
- Netwerk Vlaanderen, Inez Louwagie, tel +32 498 68 29 40, www.netwerkvlaanderen.be/en
- Friends of the Earth, David Heller, tel +32 472 34 24 63, www.motherearth.org
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The radioactive buffet was one of many events taking place around the world to mark the publication of 'Too Risky for Business. Financial Institutions and Uranium Weapons', a report that details the role that 47 international banks support the manufacture of uranium weapons. The report shows the involvement of the Bank of New York mellon in supporting uranium weapon producers ATK, General Dynamics and GenCorp.
Activists wearing tuxedos and ball gowns distributed “radioactive” food and drinks to the staff of the bank, while musicians played classical music. The action was organised to highlight the consequences of the bank’s investment in the US arms companies ATK, GenCorp, and General Dynamics. These companies are three major producers of uranium weapons, which contain radioactive and chemically toxic depleted uranium.
The dangers of Uranium Weapons
Depleted uranium is a radioactive and chemically toxic waste product from the nuclear industry. It is used in anti-tank weapons and in the armour of tanks. The use of these weapons creates clouds of tiny metal particles that contaminate the battlefield and surrounding environment for millions of years. Scientific research has shown that depleted uranium causes cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems. These effects have been recorded in both soldiers and civilians, and are evident well after the end of the armed conflict leaving a legacy of disaster..
Towards a ban
There is a growing awareness that these weapons violate the most fundamental human rights. Military trade unions, human rights organisations and the environmental and peace movements are all calling for a world-wide ban on the production of uranium weapons.
In June 2007 Belgium published a law that bans depleted uranium weapons. Belgium became the first country in the world to implement a ban on the manufacture, use, storage, sale, acquisition, supply and transport of uranium weapons. The ban on uranium weapons also raises questions about financial institutions that are contributing to the production of these deadly weapons.
Too risky for Business?
The companies who produce these weapons are readily supplied with capital by large financial groups, investments that make the production of these weapons possible. This is the conclusion of the report 'Too Risky for Business. Financial Institutions and Uranium Weapons.', published today by Netwerk Vlaanderen (B), the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), and BankTrack.
The research report shows that more than 40 financial institutions are currently investing in producers of uranium weapons. Three US stock market listed companies: Alliant Techsystems, GenCorp and General Dynamics, are supported by financiers from Canada, the US, Japan, Great Britain, France, Germany, Taiwan, Singapore and Italy.
In the period July 2004 – June 2007, these institutions guaranteed credit facilities worth a total of at least 3 billion US $. The financial institutions have also underwritten the issuing of 4.2 billion US $ in bonds and 120 million US $ in shares in these companies. Various financiers also hold significant shareholdings in the producers of uranium weapons.
David Heller, of Friends of the Earth stated: “The civilian and military community calls on investors to act responsibly and put an end to their support for the production of Uranium Weapons. A number of investors have already taken this step. Others will hopefully follow. Governments also have an important role to play here. Just as with a ban on investments in weapons such as anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, governments can ensure that banks are no longer legally able to invest in producers of uranium weapons.”
Via actions in many countries, the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons calls on the banks mentioned in this report to take a positive step and implement an investment policy that no longer allows this sort of investment.