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A blue mist comes floating across the frosty fields. They do it twice a day, one and a half tons a year. When the farmers find grenades, they leave them at the base of the utility masts, and the miners collect them. And so it goes on here. Generation after generation, this soil continues to vomit up grenades, buttons, buckles, knives, skulls, bottles, rifles, sometimes even a whole tank.
The Great War never ends. Nearly 66 million artillery shells containing chemical weapons were fired during World War I. At least 40 different compounds were weaponized for use on the battlefield. Such aged chemical weapons affect countries as far as China. The cost of the destruction of ACW is to be met by the abandoning state-party, if its identity is known. As of December , three states declared that chemical weapons had been abandoned on their territory, and 13 declared possession of OCW.
By comparison, six states said they possessed post-World War II chemical weapons stockpiles. During , for example, Austria uncovered three such weapons, which posed no immediate danger to the environment. In the OPCW approved a proposal to destroy these munitions in Germany, at Munster, partly on the condition that they remain under the ownership and control of Austria.
Australia considered the munitions to be already destroyed because of their deteriorated condition and declared them as OCW. For example, in a number of World War I-era artillery shells, some of which were reportedly filled with chlorine, were uncovered in the village of Toporivka in the Chernovsti region of Ukraine. It is reasonable to assume that other successor states may face similar challenges.
All told, as of December 31, , countries had declared 50, OCW produced before and 66, OCW produced between and As of the same date, approximately 37, munitions had been declared as ACW. Following the end of World War I, it was common for scrap collectors to recover spent artillery shells and other scrap metal from the former battlefields, including those in Belgium. The copper driving bands on shells were of particular interest. In the s, Belgian authorities let contracts to collect the war material systematically.
The volume was so great that a decision was taken to dump the munitions or scuttle them on ships. Much of this dumping occurred in shallow water in an area called Horse Market Paardenmarkt.
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Ypres is the site where German forces released approximately tons of chlorine in April It was also where Germany first used sulfur mustard, also called Yperite, in July Key combatants in the war used chemical weapons. More than 12, shells have been destroyed at the Poelkapelle facility, and as of , close to 50, shells have been examined using X-rays and neutron activation analysis. This is carried out partly to determine whether the shell is a conventional explosive or is a chemical round. It also assists with determining where the shell should be drilled or cut to avoid touching the burster well.
Some shells, particularly 7.
These bottles tend to break over time and contaminate the explosive components with chemical-weapon agent. In such cases, additional safety and environmental precautions must be taken because it is impossible to separate the agent from the explosives. Currently, the facility receives about 10, items approximately metric tons per year.
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At least one-third are immediately identified as being conventional rounds. Typically, approximately percent of the total have been found to be chemical weapons munitions. In the first joint Chinese-Japanese investigation of a site containing chemical weapons was conducted in an effort to determine the scope of the problem.
Since then, the two countries have jointly conducted approximately 75 fact-finding missions or site investigations of suspected ACW sites. Since , they have executed 16 excavation and recovery operations. These activities provided evidence for the presence of approximately , chemical weapons munitions, 90 percent of which are located in Haerbaling in Jilin Province in northeastern China. In the Chinese delegation to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament introduced a paper estimating that approximately two million chemical weapons had been abandoned on its territory.
This initial estimate was revised downward as a result of subsequent joint Chinese-Japanese investigation and field visits. In , Japan announced its intention to introduce a mobile destruction system apparently a detonation chamber system to complement the planned construction of a fixed, incineration-based chemical weapons destruction facility in Haerbaling.
Approximately 38, of the estimated , or more ACW located in the region have been recovered and are awaiting destruction. Although destruction operations of ACW in China have not yet begun, the country faces a number of challenges. These include the difficulty in locating all ACW sites, the presence in some cases of conventional munitions with fuses that might trigger the munitions while they are being handled or while in storage, and possible corruption.
In a former president of a Japanese contractor and other parties were reported to have been arrested for illegally diverting destruction assistance funds. Nonetheless, destruction operations in China should be simpler than for most other states because it only has two basic types of chemical fills, requiring only two different types of destruction methods.
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The fact that one of the technologies is expected to employ explosive charges does mean that there is some concern about how long this process will take. Generally, it is more difficult with this method to achieve the necessary throughput in order to destroy large numbers of munitions in a timely manner because attaching the charges lengthens the destruction process.
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China and Japan are considering using different destruction technologies at the main destruction facility at Haerba-ling. For red munitions containing Clark I diphenylchloroarsine or Clark II diphenylcyanoarsine , a destruction technology using donor charges is being debated. For the yellow munitions, a mixture of lewisite and sulfur mustard, using a static detonation technology is being considered.
For this, a temperature of approximately degrees Celsius will be sufficient to destroy the munitions, including the chemical warfare agent. A mobile destruction plant is currently under consideration and should begin operation by late spring In , approximately 1 million chemical weapon shells were scattered about the site when a train carrying munitions exploded, after which the area had the appearance of a moonscape.
Most of the munitions at Munster are German, but it also houses significant quantities of munitions produced by other countries during both world wars.
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