Russian CW destruction stalls, US & Australia steam ahead

As Russia prepares to formalise a delay to its chemical weapons disposal programme, Australia and the US have taken positive steps towards the destruction of their mustard gas reserves.

Russia’s timetable for the implementation of the terms of Article IV of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which calls for the complete disposal of all chemical weapons, has suffered recently setbacks due to economic constraints. Addressing Russia’s Chemical Demilitarisation Commission, Viktor Kholstov, treaty implementation chief at the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry, blamed a lack of funding for his agency on the global economic downturn. As a result, Moscow is preparing a formal order delaying the completion of the chemical weapon disposal programme from 2012 until 2015. All CWC member states have been informed.

By contrast, the United States and Australia have each announced progress in the destruction of their chemical weapons stocks.

The United States declared last week that it has destroyed its oldest reserves of mustard gas. Dating from 1940, the one-ton container, housing 800kg of gas, was disposed of on Tuesday 2 August. The Umatilla facility in Oregon, where the work was carried out, has destroyed 374 containers (around 14 percent) of its mustard gas reserves to date and is on track to complete the work by April 2012, despite recent worries over two small leaks at the facility.

Meanwhile, the Australian Department of Defence is undertaking preparations to destroy 144 mustard gas shells by June 2011. A specialist disposal facility is being construction by the Australian company Milsearch to capture and store all emissions linked to the destruction process.

The shells were discovered last year on the site of a World War II United States military base at Columboola, Australia, near Chinchilla. The US has sent demolitions experts and specialist equipment to the site to aid with identification and processing of the materials. Once the purpose-built chamber is completed, the actual physical decommissioning is expected to take between one and two weeks.

Russia Prepares Order on CW Disposal Delay, NTI, 3 August

Oregon Depot Resumes Mustard Agent Incineration, NTI, 15 July

Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot destroys oldest mustard ton container, KNDO, 4 August

Australia to destroy mustard gas shells, Bioprepwatch, 2 August