How Syria's Chemical Weapons Are Being Destroyed: Page 2

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In total, the Cape Ray will process approximately 772 tons of chemicals, including all of Syria's declared mustard agentand more than 600 tons of "Priority 1" chemicals, which are the most dangerous chemicals declared by the Syrian government.

Safely destroying chemicals

The resulting mixture of acid chemicals and base reagents are then vigorously mixed, making the deadly chemicals much less harmful, Reutter said. These safer chemicals, known as effluent, can then be disposed of in a variety of ways, including through incineration or other waste management processes.

In the incineration process, nonlethal chemicals and the containers that hold them are burned inside of a commercial incinerator, Reutter said. De Bretton-Gordon said that weapons that once contained chemicals, like empty missile shells, could also be disposed of in this way. The smoke produced as a result of this process typically passes through a series of filters and condensers that render it nontoxic, he said.

Why Chemical Weapons Cross the 'Red Line'

In the United States and other countries, incineration is commonly used to dispose of chemical waste, according to de Bretton-Gordon, who said that the effluent produced by the Cape Ray, as well as Syria's store of "Priority 2" chemicals, will likely be disposed of in this way. Priority 2 chemicals are toxic, but not as deadly as the Priority 1 chemicals being destroyed aboard the Cape Ray, according to de Bretton-Gordon.

"['Priority 2' chemicals] are toxic chemicals that are burned in the U.K. and virtually every other country all the time. Some of the things that are in there are hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoride— strong acids," de Bretton-Gordon said.

The nearly 1.5 million gallons (5.7 million liters) of effluent produced by the Cape Ray will be stored onboard the ship until it can be transported to one of several countries, where it will be destroyed for good. According to the OPCW, Germany will receive all of the effluent that results from the neutralization of Syria's mustard gas. Finland will also receive nearly 1,200 gallons (4,500 liters) of effluent from the Cape Ray.

The OPCW has specified that Priority 2 chemicals processed in the United States will be disposed of via incineration. The organization has not detailed how Finland and Germany will be disposing of their share of the chemicals from Syria and the effluent produced by the Cape Ray.

Original article on Live Science.

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