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17 Oct, 2007 05:39

Russia bids farewell to chemical arms

Russia’s largest plant for destroying chemical weapons is using proprietary technology to get rid of bombs and warheads that were made in the USSR years ago.

Disguised as huge hills, the vaults in a forest in the Kirov region near the Urals store almost one-fifth of the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons.

In 1997, Russia and the United States signed the chemical weapons convention which outlawed their production, stockpiling and use. The depot called “Object Mardikovo’” was turned into a huge plant with the sole purpose of destroying its outdated but nevertheless deadly ammunition.

Back in the late 1990s, there was no proved technology to safely dispose of Sarin, Soman and Vx nerve agents. The U.S. burns their weapons. The Russian plant in the Kirov region uses a prorate two-stage method to deal with bombs, shells and warheads.

First the casing with the agent is pumped with a special solution. Over three months the mixture turns into an almost inert mass that can be safely burned down via plasma into a phosphoric fertilizer.

Since the agent is not extracted from the bomb and the whole process takes place in a sealed room, there is little danger of its leaking into the atmosphere. Still, mobile laboratories control the environment around the facility.

Every four-hour shift the plant destroys sixteen units of ammunition. It totals 96 in one day. To date, 21,806 bombs have been neutralized.

Russia is planning to completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpile by 2012.