Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Just how do you destroy chemical weapons?

WASHINGTON — The proposal on the table for securing Syria's chemical weapons is far from a done deal. But with Syria's government at least suggesting its willingness to become the 190th country to ratify the chemical weapons convention, it's worth taking a look at what steps would come next.

Paul Walker, currently director of Environmental Security and Sustainability at Global Green and a former House Armed Services Committee staffer, has written extensively on the abolition of chemical weapons. He outlined the challenges involved in the process under even the best of circumstances.

After Syria ratified the treaty, Walker said, Syrian President Bashar Assad would have "to declare all of his facilities in writing — not only stockpiles but precursor chemicals — all of his production facilities, and research facilities, and anything else related to chemical weapons."

After that, officials from the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would arrive in Syria to take an inventory of the stockpile to see if it matches the declarations. Following these inspections, other countries would compare the numbers to their existing intelligence assessments. (A publicly released French report, for instance, estimates Assad's chemical weapons stockpile at around 1,000 tons.) If discrepancies are found, one of these countries can demand OPCW inspectors be immediately sent in to conduct a "challenge inspection."

Once the inspection process is complete, Syria would have to come up with a technical plan for the destruction of its stockpiles. Until the 1980s, it was common for chemical weapons to be dumped at sea or buried, but this is now strictly prohibited. According to Walker, most countries also don't allow open burning — "just taking the weapons out and blowing them up in the middle of a field" — for understandable reasons.

"You have to treat this as an industrial destruction process in accord with environmental and health regulations," Walker said.

The methods will be determined largely by what Assad has in his stockpile, but assuming he has the weaponized nerve agents that have been discussed in the media, there are two primary ways to destroy them. The first is incineration.

"You have to separate the weapon from the live agent," Walker says. This is generally done by robots. "You have a liquid furnace to burn the agent, and a metal parts furnace to burn the weapon. The complication here is if the weapons have integrated weapons and rocket propellant, you have to break those out, which can be very dangerous, and you have to have separate furnaces for those."

The other option is chemical neutralization: "You drain the weapons and mix that chemically with hot water and a more caustic chemical such as sodium hydroxide. That chemically reacts and destroys the agent pretty well. Typically it also goes through a secondary process to destroy the precursor chemicals, such as a sewage treatment or a liquid incinerator."

Unfortunately, even this doesn't neutralize the danger completely. "There's always some toxic waste that comes out — heavy metals, dried toxic gunk," Walker said. "That has to be stored in barrels and put into a toxic waste site."

Assuming complete cooperation from Assad's government, the destruction of Syria's stockpiles could take "anywhere from a few years to a decade," according to Walker.

Comments
Polk deputies seek Pinellas man accused of pushing woman from speeding car

Polk deputies seek Pinellas man accused of pushing woman from speeding car

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for a Pinellas County man accused of beating and pushing a woman from a speeding car.On Feb. 17, Remond Brown II, 26, was traveling with the woman in a black Honda Accord near Highway 60 E...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Guest column: The time I asked Billy Graham if he ever gets sick of the Bible

Guest column: The time I asked Billy Graham if he ever gets sick of the Bible

The interview was not going well.There I was, in a coveted one-on-one meeting with Billy Graham in his home in Montreat, N.C., in August 1998. It took months to get this interview for the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV. The newspaper and the TV station ha...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Joe Henderson: Farewell to Eddie Card, sports enthusiast, gentleman and friend

Joe Henderson: Farewell to Eddie Card, sports enthusiast, gentleman and friend

There was an empty seat in the pew at the back of my church Sunday. It was where Eddie Card used to sit.That’s where I would see Eddie and his wonderful wife, Joan, nearly every week. He would always extend his hand and give mine a firm shake.He woul...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Procession planned for ‘America’s Pastor,’ Rev. Billy Graham

Procession planned for ‘America’s Pastor,’ Rev. Billy Graham

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, the magnetic, movie-star-handsome preacher who became a singular force in postwar American religious life, a confidant of presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. He was 9...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Tampa Bay has broken record high temperatures since Monday, and Thursday should be no different.Happy Thursday! We are rolling through the week and once again temperatures will be near record highs this afternoon. If we break the record high of 85° t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Grapefruit League 2018 day-by-day schedule

Grapefruit League 2018 day-by-day schedule

Here is the 2018 day-by-day Grapefruit League schedule. Check out the Tampa Bay Times’ 2018 Spring Training Guide for stadium locations, contact information, team-by-team schedules, ticket information and more.Thursday, Feb. 22U. of Tampa vs. Philade...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — A man was rescued early Thursday morning after Hillsborough County deputies say his boat was swept away by a strong tide and capsized in the Little Manatee River.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, a 911 call was received ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: Rubio taken to task; Romano on the GOP lobby; St. Pete’s World Liquors sign finds new home; what if Rays know what they’re doing?

The Daystarter: Rubio taken to task; Romano on the GOP lobby; St. Pete’s World Liquors sign finds new home; what if Rays know what they’re doing?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• Temperatures peaked Wednesday, but don’t expect cooler air to return just yet. Highs will remain in the mid 80s through next week, according to 10Weather WTSP. And it will re...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. That’s because a ban deals only with fut...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Supercross brings athletes — not just motorcycle riders — to Tampa

Supercross brings athletes — not just motorcycle riders — to Tampa

TAMPA — When breaking down the competitive skill in Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship Series event at Raymond James Stadium, you won’t find an analysis of 40-yard dash times, bench-press weights or vertical-leap measurements...
Published: 02/22/18