Home World The United States destroys its last chemical weapons

The United States destroys its last chemical weapons

The United States destroys its last chemical weapons

The United States has announced that in the coming days it will complete the final operations to destroy and eliminate all chemical weapons in the US arsenal (or at least those announced by the government). The latest disposal operation involved destroying some 50,000 rockets filled with sarin, a special type of nerve agent. The destruction of these weapons, the subject of decades of debate in the United States and abroad, is to be expected Chemical Weapons Convention 1997which was joined by 193 countries, including the United States.

Chemical weapons that are destroyed or are in the process of being destroyed are different: projectiles, cluster bombs and mines filled with nerve agents, tanks filled with toxic substances that can be loaded onto aircraft and then sprayed on targets below. However, we are generally talking about weapons filled with a chemical agent and equipped with an explosive charge that allows it to spread in the form of a vapor capable of causing fatal inflammation once it comes into contact with the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

In the United States, weapons of this type have been stored for decades in a series of underground reinforced concrete bunkers, often near farmland.

The last two chemical weapons destruction operations took place one in Pueblo, Colorado, with the dismantling of a final cache containing about 2,600 tons of mustard gas, a chemical also known as “mustard gas”. The final operation concludes in a Kentucky warehouse where sarin-laden missiles to be destroyed have been kept since the 1940s. After that operation, all declared chemical weapons on US soil will be eliminated: according to The New York Times It could happen as early as Friday, or in any case in the next few days.

Concretely, destruction processes consist of a complex procedure in which a series of humanoid machines disassemble and disassemble weapons, depriving them of chemical content and destroying their casings after washing them at high temperatures. Instead, the extracted chemical content is destroyed by a process called neutralizewhere it is mixed with hot water and sodium hydroxide, and then checking that the chemical agent has already been destroyed.

the The New York Times He recounted, for example, the destruction of bullets loaded with mustard gas, which formed together with mortar shells.8.5 percent Of the stocks of chemical weapons supplied to the United States at the end of the Cold War, equal to 30,610 Total tons. At a Colorado depot, the lead was excavated and its contents emptied using a vacuum system: the casing was then washed and heated to more than 600 degrees, creating scrap metal that led some conveyor belts into a large waste container, and the chemical contents were destroyed by neutralization.

All these operations require skilled men and women, who work wearing protective clothing and gloves, who, before proceeding to destroy the weapons, pass them under x-rays to ensure that they are not damaged and not leaked. If this is the case, another and different destruction procedure is envisaged, with a detonation inside a cellar

Chemical weapons destruction operations at a Colorado warehouse (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

According to available information, the United States last used chemical weapons in battle during World War I, from 1915 to 1918. But during the Vietnam War, between 1955 and 1975, they used Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide that is very harmful to humans. .

The use of chemical weapons in warfare was prohibited immediately after World War I, by the Geneva Protocol of 1925: however, the Protocol only prohibited their use, and they were not developed, produced and owned, as nerve agents such as sarins were developed at a later time.

For decades, the United States has continued to build chemical weapons production and storage facilities in several states, Argues Mostly they have a deterrent function, that is, to discourage other countries from using them, and to show their willingness to use them in response.

The debate about the desire to destroy chemical weapons began above all in the 1960s: in 1968, in particular, about 5,000 sheep died in Utah on land adjacent to a site where the US military was testing a nerve agent. Lobby groups and political parties campaigned against the production and stockpiling of weapons of this type, and discussions began about how best to dispose of them.

The military initially proposed loading them onto ships and destroying them at sea, as has been done with other chemical weapons in the past, but was confrontedStrong opposition Especially by environmental groups. Another plan involved destroying the weapons in incinerators, but even in this case there was much opposition from those who feared possible toxic contamination from burning chemical agents. However, some of the weapons were burned at factories in several states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, Utah, and one on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

Recently, new technologies have been developed to destroy chemical weapons without burning them, which are used in current processes.

The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 the first The world’s multilateral disarmament agreement that provides for the elimination of an entire class of weapons of mass destruction within a predetermined period of time. According to the original terms of the agreement, the destruction of the chemical weapons was supposed to be completed within a few years and at a cost of about $1.5 billion: it is now being completed, after decades of delay, and at an estimated cost. quoted from The New York Times About 42 billion dollars.

According to data on the convention’s website, to date, 99 percent of chemical weapons declared by possessing states that have ratified the convention have been destroyed. The United Kingdom ended demolitions in 2007, India in 2009, and Russia in 2017. However, there are countries that have not signed the agreement, such as Egypt or North Korea, and countries that have not ratified, such as Israel, and remember that even if they do ratify They may have kept some unauthorized stockpiles of chemical weapons, as is believed to be the case with Russia.

Some terrorist groups also possess chemical weapons: according to IHS Conflict Monitor, a London-based intelligence gathering and analysis service, the Islamic State has used improvised chemical weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2016.


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