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The University of Tennessee

What is UXO?


UXO DemolitionUnexploded Ordnance (UXO) is a term used internationally to represent explosive devices that have not detonated as intended. These devices are usually military munitions such as landmines, grenades, bombs, etc., but it can also include explosives used in construction and land development projects. These explosive devices have been primed for action and deployed, but did not detonate for different reasons (usually malfunction). These devices become an issue when they are located in an area that is deemed an unacceptable risk to the local population, structures or current operations. UXO is a significant threat to local populations because most people do not realize its existence in their area. Buried UXO is also a significant contamination threat to the environment. The chemicals located within the UXO can leach into the soil and groundwater, which can then contaminate the local population’s drinking water. This is not a new threat. It has been around since the late 1800s, and it can be located anywhere from combat and former war zones, to inactive firing and test ranges. This is a threat that is present both domestically and internationally.


UXO Threats Domestically

UXO is not a threat that is just affecting countries with major war zones. UXO has been found across the US & Canada, leading to multiple delays in construction and development. In Indian River Lagoon, located in Florida, local boaters steer clear of the area surrounding DeLand Naval Air Station for fear of accidentally striking UXO thought to be left from the trial runs performed during World War II. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents released in late 2002, UXO is still located at 16,000 domestic inactive military ranges. The EPA released a statement explaining that UXO pose an “imminent and substantial” public health risk and could require the largest environmental cleanup ever. They estimate this cleanup to cost approximately $14 Billion.


UXO Threats Internationally

UXO is a serious threat internationally. In 2010, the US State department recorded over $15 million being donated to Laos, in that year alone to help remove UXO. Approximately 300 people die each year in Laos due to UXO. It is estimated that over 50,000 people have died in total. During the Vietnam War, Laos was bombed more than any other country in history, and approximately 30% of the US bombs dropped did not detonate. It is estimated that the largest caches of UXO are located in Germany, France, Belgium, Lebanon, United Kingdom, and Laos. Most of these countries are still littered with bombs from World War I & II.  UXO can not only be found in countries where an active war zone occurred, but it can actually be found in almost every modernized country.