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Destroying Syria's chemical weapons is not an easy task

Weapon-making equipment is destroyed but 1,000 tons of toxic ingredients remain.
Posted By Evan Bleier   |   Oct. 31, 2013 at 11:01 AM   |   Comments

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(UPI) -- Syria’s chemical weapon manufacturing equipment has been completely destroyed, but it is going to be much more difficult to get rid of the more than 1,000 tons of toxic ingredients that still remain.

Disposal of unused chemical weapons is not a new problem.

At the end of World War II, excess chemical weapons were dumped out at sea, a practice which is not considered acceptable in 2013.

"The rough guestimate is [that] probably 300,000 tons or more have been dumped in every ocean of the world, except the Antarctic," said Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainability director Paul Walker.

In the 1980s, with the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia tried burning their chemical weapons, but that method proved ineffective. "When you burn something, it doesn't just disappear, you know -- it's physically impossible for everything to just disappear,” Walker said.

A new technique for disposing of chemical ingredients, hydrolysis, will likely be used in Syria. In hydrolysis, toxic chemicals are broken down using hot water and chemicals like bleach. Hydrolysis is the safest method of chemical weapons disposal to date. "It's done in Europe all the time, [and] in many ways -- in France, in Belgium and Germany, in Italy," Walker said.

However the chemicals will have to be moved from Syria in order for hydrolysis to take place. Walker hopes to find a country will offer to host the operation. Norway recently turned down a request to be that country.

"We can't just put it on a ship," Walker said, "and have it wander the Mediterranean for the indefinite future."

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