The Big Clean-Up

Disposing a chemical weapons stockpile is a daunting task because many varieties are hard to trace and can be hidden in plain sight. Also, the process may take decades to complete, with the cost running into billions of dollars. The recent clean-up in Syria touted to be the largest ever has thrown open a discussion on the most prudent way to go about it


Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the team currently dismantling Syria's arsenal, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year

* An inter-governmental body based in The Hague, Netherlands, it oversees that all signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention comply with the rules

* The chemical weapons can be destroyed in situ using mobile units, or moved to another location for large-scale processing


* Toxic chemicals delivered by an explosion, such as a bomb, artillery shell, or missile

* Can injure and kill people

* Reactions include choking, nerve damage, blood poisoning and blistering

* The first chemical weapons, used in World War I, were gases released from canisters

* They aren't gases now; they're liquid aerosol, with droplets carried through air


1917 to 1960s: Commonly accepted disposal methods were open-pit burning, land burial and ocean dumping

1970s onwards: More sophisticated and environmentally sound disposal methods high-temperature incineration and chemical neutralisation


Uses a tremendous amount of heat to turn toxic chemical into mostly ash, water vapour, carbon dioxide


Breaks the chemical agent down using water and a caustic compound, such as sodium hyrdoxide. Large quantity of liquid waste generated must be processed further


* Have to be thermally decontaminated, as enough heat can't be produced to vapourise the metal

... contd.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.