Take Two for September 17, 2013

How to destroy a cache of chemical weapons

Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian regime calls a new deal on its chemical weapons a victory, in a reaction that came one day after the U.S. and Russia announced the plan.

SYRIA-UN-CHEMICAL-WEAPONS

MOHAMED ABDULLAH/AFP/Getty Images

Syrians gather near vehicles of the United Nations (UN) arms experts as they inspect a site suspected of being hit by a deadly chemical weapons attack


Now that the Syrian government has agreed to turn over its chemical weapons to UN inspectors, plans are underway to figure out how to destroy the weapons stockpile.

It's not going to be an easy task.  Destroying conventional weapons can be dangerous.  Disposing of munitions containing agents like the deadly nerve gas Sarin is considerably more complex.

Megan Garber of The Atlantic has been researching the process for chemical weapons disposal.

She says the munitions must be broken down, and the chemical agents removed and collected. Robots are often used to perform this task.

The toxic chemicals may be incinerated.  Other agents may be used to neutralize them.  Technicians even use certain forms of bacteria that can break the toxins down into harmless substances.

And it's not just the weapons that must be destroyed.  Crates and containers used to store them and even the pallets they were stacked on must be carefully disposed of.

It's all complicated, and very expensive.  And, because it will likely have to take place in Syria, and at or near the sites where the weapons were stored, it's even more challenging.  Especially if the civil war in that country continues to rage on.  


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