July 26, 2006
Nuns and Priests File Depleted Uranium Bunker Buster Resolution at Three Weapons Companies
by Bill Baue
The resolution goes to vote next week at Alliant Techsystems, and already received more than double
the support needed to re-file next year at Lockheed Martin and Textron.
Depleted uranium (DU), the radioactive byproduct of uranium enrichment, is in the headlines as the
US recently agreed to send 100 Guided Bomb Unit-28 bunker buster bombs containing DU warheads to
Israel for use against targets in Lebanon, as reported by Reuters and others.
Shareowner activists are also placing DU on the corporate agenda by filing a new resolution
expressing health and environmental concerns and asking for a report from three companies on their
involvement with DU. Concern centers on the pyrophoric properties of DU, which burns and loses
much of its mass upon impact, dispersing a fine radioactive dust that can be carried long distances
by winds or absorbed by soil and groundwater--not to mention human bodies.
resolution received 6.4 percent support at Lockheed Martin (ticker: LMT) and 9 percent support at
according to the EthVest database
maintained by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responibility (ICCR)--both well over the 3 percent
threshold required by the SEC for re-filing next year. The proposal goes to vote next week at
Alliant Techsystems (ATK), which manufactures 120 mm
rounds containing DU for penetrating tanks and light armor vehicles.
"It's one thing to
make a weapon that 'does the job' on the battlefield; it's another to manufacture and use one that
destroys not only tanks, armored personnel carriers and underground bunkers but may also leave a
potentially poisonous legacy in the bodies of the people who return to those areas after
hostilities have ceased," said John Celichowski, head of the corporate responsibility program for
the Province of St. Joseph of the
Capuchin Order, which filed the resolution at Alliant along with other ICCR members. "We
believe that the choice to use particular weapons in areas that are bound to be inhabited or
re-inhabited by civilians raises serious moral questions which need to be addressed by our
policy-makers, our armed services, the society they claim to be defending, and the companies that
make such weapons."
"The pyrophoric qualities of these weapons also creates potential
risks for our own soldiers," he told SocialFunds.com.
The resolutions make not only a
moral and ethical case, but also a business case against DU.
"The business case against DU
centers around the potential liability for human and environmental impacts and damage to the
companies' reputations," said Valerie Heinonen, a corporate social responsibility consultant to the
Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust, which filed the resolution at
Lockheed. "Rather than seeking a market for radioactive waste, the federal government and
corporations should work with NGOs to find solutions for long-term storage."
Governance, one of the three major proxy advisory firms, recommends voting for
the resolution at Alliant
"PROXY Governance acknowledges that there are serious
concerns regarding the health effects of using munitions containing depleted uranium (DU)," states
PROXY Governance. "While we are not aware of significant litigation involving the health
and safety of workers at DU munitions production facilities at this time, the potential for future
such litigation exists."
In fact, Richard David of the UK filed suit against Honeywell (HON) in 2004
claiming adverse health effects from working at a munitions factory during the first Gulf War where
DU was used in manufacturing, according to an article in The Observer.
"And while the World Health Organization and others have stated that there is no
conclusive medical evidence linking DU to health problems,
reports by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have suggested that the weapons may
well be illegal under The Geneva Conventions, The Hague Conventions and other international law,"
continues the PROXY Governance report. "Such a finding could complicate efforts by DU weapons
manufacturers to defend themselves against potential future litigation involving health effects or
environmental clean-up efforts."
The Alliant board argues in its proxy statement that the company discloses
information regarding its military- and defense-related contracting in its SEC filings, but PROXY
Governance notes that these filings do not discuss the specific matters brought up in the
PROXY Governance also recommended voting for the resolution at
Lockheed, but against it at Textron, as the company's board points out in its proxy statement that the company is not involved in DU production and has
no plans to be. Both ISS and Glass Lewis recommend voting against
the resolution at all three companies.
"We were in conversation with Textron management
following the filing of the resolution, but we did not get satisfactory answers and therefore the
lead filer, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed
Virgin Mary decided to leave the resolution on the ballot," Sister Valerie told
SocialFunds.com. "The vote at Textron may lead to further, more satisfactory conversation."