CHEMICAL WEAPONS

CHEMICAL WEAPONS - CLEANING UP THE MESS

Chemical weapons are costly to make and even costlier to clean up.

By the end of 2002 the United States had disposed of around 25% of its declared stockpile of 31,279 tonnes of chemical weapons. In 2002 alone the cost of destroying them was $25 billion and rising.

Russia’s declared stockpile: about 40,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. Destruction of these has been very slow and well behind schedule, mainly because Russia did not have enough money to pay for it. In 2002, US assistance to Russia’s CW destruction programme amounted to $133.4 million. A number of other countries also contributed several million dollars.

China and Japan finally began to discuss how to destroy the chemical weapons which had been left behind in China by the Japanese during their 1930s war.

Bombs filled with unidentified chemicals have been examined on San José Island in Panama: the US and the Allies used this site during World War II.

Australia’s Ministry of Defence has become increasingly concerned about the estimated 14,634 tonnes of chemical weapons dumped off its coast after World War II. There is a risk that fishermen might bring dangerously corroded canisters to the surface. Release of the chemicals on the seabed is also a potential hazard. No plans have been announced for dealing with the problem.

The clean-up of buried World War I chemical weapons in Washington DC is expected to continue for several more years and cost a further $71.7 million. Recently uncovered information has revealed that the area needing to be checked for contamination extends into well-populated suburban areas.

In Alabama, where the army's aging chemical weapons have started to leak, around 100,000 people live close to the site where such weapons were scheduled to be burned. When these citizens heard about a leak at another chemical weapons incinerator in the isolated Rocky Mountains, they grew anxious. 'We want to get rid of them, just like everybody else in the community here does, and along with the international Chemical Weapons Convention. We are in complete agreement with them. The only thing we disagree with is the method,' said a member of the local protest movement.


The chemical weapons in Alabama hold enough nerve agents to kill millions of people

Disposing of chemical weapons is dangerous and costly. It is also urgent: weapons and storage facilities are deteriorating.

A British firm of engineers has offered an ‘extremely environmentally-friendly’ technology which, they say, ‘provides a solution for the world's chemical munitions legacy’. How much better it would have been if such vast resources and energy had not been put into producing the weapons in the first place.



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