Britain completes destruction of old Chemical Weapon holding

#1
With other events in the headlines we missed this:

Britain has successfully destroyed its holdings of old chemical weapons, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram announced at the Imperial War Museum London on Tuesday 27 March 2007.


To demonstrate these weapons have been consigned to history, Mr Ingram presented a commemorative chemical weapon shell from the Second World War to the Museum for inclusion in its permanent collection.

Behind him was the 1918 painting, Gassed, by John Singer Sargent, which depicts the horror of the use of chemical weapons in Word War I.

The recent attacks by terrorist insurgents in Iraq using improvised chlorine explosive devices serve to demonstrate again the terrible effects on humans if toxic chemicals are used to kill or maim and underline the need to take these weapons out of circulation once and for all.

The presentation highlights that Britain has met its obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy its holdings of old, unusable weapons by April 2007. In total 3,812 old chemical weapons have been safely destroyed at a cost of £10 Million.



"The OPCW is grateful for the United Kingdom's strong and unwavering support of the Organisation in its mission to eliminate chemical weapons forever through the effective application of the Chemical Weapons Convention by every nation."

Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
If further small quantities of such weapons are unearthed in the future, they too will be destroyed. Britain gave up its offensive chemical weapons capability in the 1950s. Mr Ingram said:

"Today marks another landmark for our efforts to rid the world of these terrible weapons. We have met our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and destroyed our old chemical weapons holdings ahead of schedule.

"The shells have been beyond military use for many years but destroying these heavily corroded and unstable weapons is a dangerous and challenging task. Our Armed Forces bomb disposal teams and the technical experts at Dstl Porton Down who undertake this task deserve our praise and thanks.





"Our goal is a world without Chemical Weapons and so we call upon all states to abandon their chemical weapons programmes and destroy their stockpiles, including legacy weapons."

The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, said:

"The United Kingdom has long been an effective and committed advocate and implementer of the global chemical weapons ban. The OPCW is grateful for the United Kingdom's strong and unwavering support of the Organisation in its mission to eliminate chemical weapons forever through the effective application of the Chemical Weapons Convention by every nation. We commend the United Kingdom on meeting this obligation to destroy old chemical weapons in exemplary fashion."

Since the Chemical Weapons Convention came into force ten years ago on 29 April 1997 Britain has played a leading role in helping achieve its aim of banning all chemical weapons.

To date, 182 states have signed up to the Convention, and some 2.67 million munitions have been destroyed. Only 13 states have yet to join the Convention - Libya joined in 2004, and Iraq intends to join in the near future.

The CWC has an effective verification regime and weapons inspectors have carried out over 2,800 routine inspections in 77 countries to date, including our old Chemical Weapons destruction facility at Porton Down in January 2007. This clearly builds confidence in the treaty.

The UK also plays a key role in the G8 Global Partnership which is helping Russia destroy its stockpile of Chemical Weapons. By implementing construction and procurement projects worth over £70M, Britain is directly helping to eliminate over 40,000 tonnes of chemical warfare agent which in the wrong hands would pose a real threat to security both in Russia and the rest of the world.
I think the rest were dumped off Stranraer in the 1950s. My father saw a lot of RAOC guys with terrible blister wounds at the time. Both legs completely blistered out was one he described to me.
 
#3
http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/marine/uk/science/irishbristol/04.htm


Munitions Dumping
Beaufort’s Dyke is a relatively deep marine trench located between the Rhins of Galloway and Northern Ireland. It was used both by the UK and Ireland, as an explosives disposal site for the dumping of redundant munitions after both World Wars. The majority of the explosives disposal site is confined to water depths of in excess of 100 m although it extends into slightly shallower waters on the Scottish side of the trench. Between 1945 and 1963, approximately 1 million tonnes of munitions were dumped in this area. In the period 1970 to 1985, the Irish disposed of 1,160 tonnes of munitions, which included small arms munitions, bombs, depth charges, fuses, primers, shells, grenades, etc. Full details of the munitions dumped by the British military are unavailable but are thought to be of similar composition. It is known that 14,000 phosgene (nerve agent) shells were disposed of in the Dyke, along with an undisclosed number of phosphorus incendiary flares. (See also Section 4.5)
4.5 MUNITIONS DISPOSAL IN BEAUFORT'S DYKE

Beaufort’s Dyke is a comparatively deep trench situated in the North Channel, to the north of the Irish Sea, and between the Rhins of Galloway and Northern Ireland. The trench is more than 50 km in length, and is approximately 3.5 km wide at its broadest point. The depth of the trench is over 200 m, and the deepest areas are in excess of 300 m deep. Centred on the trench is an explosives disposal site, which was used for the dumping of redundant munitions after both World Wars (see Section 3.7). The majority of this site is confined to water depths in excess of 100 m. During the summer and autumn of 1995, there was considerable public and media interest in the Beaufort’s Dyke explosives disposal site, and that interest was heightened by the stranding of large numbers of phosphorous devices on the Scottish coastline. This initially occurred in the Firth of Clyde, and latterly in areas around the Mull of Kintyre, and on the islands of Jura, Islay and Gigha. Smaller numbers of these devices were also stranded on the coastlines of Ireland and Northern Ireland (SOAEFD, 1996). Subsequently, surveys were undertaken in order to determine the distribution and densities of dumped munitions within and immediately adjacent to the disposal site.

The results of these surveys, undertaken in 1995-96, confirmed that the centre of distribution of the munitions and related debris was located within, and immediately adjacent to, the northeast sector of the disposal site. Smaller quantities of material were also found adjacent to the west and southwest boundaries of the disposal site. The results of analyses for explosive and propellant residues and heavy metals indicated that the dumping of munitions at this site has not resulted in chemical contamination of either the surface seabed sediments, or of commercially exploited fish and shellfish species collected from an area adjacent to the disposal site. The concentrations of heavy metals were found to be within the ranges reported for commercial catches from around the UK coastline, and would not compromise public health.
I was surprised that this had been disclosed actually.
 
#4
Yet another non story..

The last stockpiled CW was got rid of in the seventies. The final stock was a small quantity of Mustard which was used for decontamination training. We have not held offensive CW since the 50s..

Some CW has turned up from site remediation where stock was buried as a means of disposal. I suspect that this will never formally end as apparantly the records of where stuff was buried was never comprehensive.

So what exactly was Ingram announcing? Pretty soon we will be having announcements that the minister has changed his socks...

I sincerely hope that Porton does keep scientific quantities of CW agent so that the boffins are kept up to speed if ever we need them....

Stabby...

Dunno where you quotes come from mate, but I would check the sell by dates... Phosgene was never a nerve agent!

The main cause of "spillage" from the Beaufort Dyke seems to have been the skippers of the ships doing the dumping... apparantly they could'nt be arrsed to go the full distance to the dyke, so dumped stuff over the side as soon as they were out of sight of land...

Ain't contracting wonderful!
 
C

cloudbuster

Guest
#5
The skippers on the Beaufort Dyke disposal run were paid on a per-round-trip basis (allegedly), so it should come as no surprise if they took a few short-cuts.
 
#6
HE117 said:
Yet another non story..

The last stockpiled CW was got rid of in the seventies. The final stock was a small quantity of Mustard which was used for decontamination training. We have not held offensive CW since the 50s..

Some CW has turned up from site remediation where stock was buried as a means of disposal. I suspect that this will never formally end as apparantly the records of where stuff was buried was never comprehensive.

So what exactly was Ingram announcing? Pretty soon we will be having announcements that the minister has changed his socks...

I sincerely hope that Porton does keep scientific quantities of CW agent so that the boffins are kept up to speed if ever we need them....

Stabby...

Dunno where you quotes come from mate, but I would check the sell by dates... Phosgene was never a nerve agent!

The main cause of "spillage" from the Beaufort Dyke seems to have been the skippers of the ships doing the dumping... apparantly they could'nt be arrsed to go the full distance to the dyke, so dumped stuff over the side as soon as they were out of sight of land...


Ain't contracting wonderful!
Exactly what my father said.
 
#7
When I was in EOD we was still digging the stuff up in the early 80's, Blister agent and Phosgene mainly, buried from WWII.

Using worn out NBC suits!

Regards
John
 
#8
A slightly relevant post for this thread, has anyone here worked for the OPCW if so can you get in touch need tips.

As far as old stocks of CWs are concerned Germany has only just got rid of the last stockpiled old munitions, however there are still sites around the country that are known to contain intact munitions and agents it's just that they dont get registered until they are recovered, I would presume the same is the case in the UK.
 
#9
Fuchs66 said:
A slightly relevant post for this thread, has anyone here worked for the OPCW if so can you get in touch need tips.

As far as old stocks of CWs are concerned Germany has only just got rid of the last stockpiled old munitions, however there are still sites around the country that are known to contain intact munitions and agents it's just that they dont get registered until they are recovered, I would presume the same is the case in the UK.
The old Muensterlager Nord Area is still being dug up as its where lots of WW1 Chemical munmitions were buried; same for the Haltern Tariing Area. The Germans have just built the dogs bollox of a chemistry set in the Muenserlager area to deal with all sorts of nasties (less Nerve and WP).
 
#10
rickshaw-major said:
The old Muensterlager Nord Area is still being dug up as its where lots of WW1 Chemical munmitions were buried; same for the Haltern Tariing Area. The Germans have just built the dogs bollox of a chemistry set in the Muenserlager area to deal with all sorts of nasties (less Nerve and WP).
I live near the Munster training area and have worked on the EOD side of things recovering the blinds from the impact areas and in my last job for the large destruction facility (dogs bollox of a chemistry set, I was head of lab there) that was built to destroy the old stocks and contaminated material. :D
 
#11
Fuchs66 said:
rickshaw-major said:
The old Muensterlager Nord Area is still being dug up as its where lots of WW1 Chemical munmitions were buried; same for the Haltern Tariing Area. The Germans have just built the dogs bollox of a chemistry set in the Muenserlager area to deal with all sorts of nasties (less Nerve and WP).
I live near the Munster training area and have worked on the EOD side of things recovering the blinds from the impact areas and in my last job for the large destruction facility (dogs bollox of a chemistry set, I was head of lab there) that was built to destroy the old stocks and contaminated material. :D
Did they actually have chemical blinds there? I'll bet that was deep joy work on a hot summers day :D
 
#12
Going back to the thing of offensive/defensive CW's what the heck is a defensive CW?

I recall being told in basic trg that UK didn't hold stocks of offensive only defensive but I don't know the difference, is it the same stuff but used differently?

Not a waah, serious question.
 
#13
Under the CW convention only first use of CW agents is against the convention and international law. You are perfectly entitled to respond in kind if attacked I believe, hence the legallity of agents for defensive purposes. Also some stocks of agents are used in order to design defensive equipment to protect against the patho physiological effects of said agents.

As far as I'm aware UK policy was just to keep small stocks for purely defensive purposes.
 
#14
rickshaw-major said:
Did they actually have chemical blinds there? I'll bet that was deep joy work on a hot summers day :D
Oh aye most have been cleared but there are still some to be found, mostly WW1 but also WW2 (was a testing area, including captured munitions) so basically just about everything that was manufactured up until 45 can be found there. Summer was ok ish (we were working in old soviet NVA suits or the Bundeswehr heavy Zodiak suits so you tend to sweat a tadge) what I thought was funny was getting given a pick-axe when the ground was frozen in winter (got chucked in the next bush).
 
#15
The_Cad said:
Under the CW convention only first use of CW agents is against the convention and international law. You are perfectly entitled to respond in kind if attacked I believe, hence the legallity of agents for defensive purposes. Also some stocks of agents are used in order to design defensive equipment to protect against the patho physiological effects of said agents.

As far as I'm aware UK policy was just to keep small stocks for purely defensive purposes.
What was said:

Britain gave up its offensive chemical weapons capability in the 1950s.
ie we still have a defensive capability in that we are trained to defend ourselves against chemical weapons.

There were defensive uses of chemical weapons, but that's a tactical concept not a different type of weapon.
 
#16
The_Cad said:
Under the CW convention only first use of CW agents is against the convention and international law. You are perfectly entitled to respond in kind if attacked I believe, hence the legallity of agents for defensive purposes.
Not quite what the CWC states is:

1. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances:

(a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;

(b) To use chemical weapons;

(c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons;

(d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.
etc
 
#17
Bad wording on my part, I was trying to state that only small quantities of agent were kept for defensive research purposes rather than as a deterent.
 
#18
Most states have a small stock of agents (a chemical agent is not the same as a chemical weapon) for research and defensive uses.
 

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