John Kerry could have never predicted the consequence of his sarcastic answer to the question of how the US could avoid war with Syria following Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens. Despite the seriousness of Kerry’s initial proposal, plans are moving forward with the elimination and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, a plan that was voted for by the UN in late September.
In a statement released by Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, it was revealed “that the United States has offered to contribute a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralise Syria’s priority chemicals,” weapons that are required to be removed from Syria by December 31 per the UN resolution.
The technology the US is offering in order to destroy said weapons is a mobile Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, a new invention created by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency arm of the Pentagon.
To neutralize and destroy the chemical weapons, the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System uses hydrolysis, a process which includes mixing the chemicals with water and other chemicals and then heating the solution with a titanium reactor.
Unfortunately, this particular hydrolysis process produces large amounts of liquid waste called effluent. Current estimates by the OPCW state that 798 tons of chemicals from Syria need to be destroyed, which will result in 7.7 million tons of effluent byproduct created.
The United States will be responsible for providing the ship and technology by which the chemical weapons will be neutralized but will not be able to dispose of all the waste. There has been some worry from environmental agencies concerning destroying the weapons at sea due to the potential contamination of whatever body of water the process will take place in (most believe it will occur in the Mediterranean Sea).
Luckily, the OPCW has been able to persuade 35 independent, private agencies to come aboard and provide the means of disposal for the effluent produced. In order to ensure that these companies do not simply dump the waste somewhere in order to turn a quick and large profit, the OPCW has stated that the companies “will be required to comply with all applicable international and national regulations pertaining to safety and the environment.”
Thus far, the OPCW has proven more than adequate toward finding practical and reliable solutions to the Syrian weapon problem. The organization, which is the active body of the Chemical Weapons Convention, was able to destroy all weapons-making facilities before the November 1st deadline and has also neutralized and obtained all the weapons which need to be removed from Syria by December 31. Last month, the OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize due to its work toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons, something the Nobel committee has been committed toward for some time now.
The move by the United States to offer its ship and technology in order to help destroy Syrian chemical weapons is an important move to help the State department save face after the Kerry gaffe. Perhaps this action will show that the US was and is committed toward achieving peace, and not war, in the Middle East and will help to disprove the notion that the only reason for US compliance in this deal was to not let Russia gain the political upper-hand and international clout.
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