News / Middle East

    US Prepares to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons

    US Prepares to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weaponsi
    X
    December 12, 2013 8:26 PM
    The U.S. Defense Department is preparing to test a system it plans to use to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles at sea. VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports officials are offering reassurances that the process will be safe.
    Luis Ramirez
    The U.S. Defense Department is preparing to test a system it plans to use to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles at sea. Officials are offering reassurances that the process will be safe.

    With civil war raging, destroying the weapons inside Syria is not an option.

    So the U.S. is drawing from decades of experience in destroying its own stockpiles and is offering to put that knowledge to work aboard the ship, the Cape Ray, where equipment is being loaded to neutralize Syria's sarin and mustard gas at sea.

    "We've destroyed more than 90 percent of our stockpile of chemical weapons from the Cold War era here in the United States, and we continue to do that work in a couple of sites in the United States, including the same technology that we plan to use on the craft to destroy Syria's chemical weapons," said Jennifer Elzea, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

    The process involves neutralizing the chemicals by mixing them with water and other substances.  The U.S. decided to do the process at sea when it became clear that paperwork and compliance with environmental and safety regulations on land would mean missing disposal deadlines.    

    Daryl Kimball heads the Arms Control Association, which advocates against weapons of mass destruction.

    “One of the reasons they're pursuing this sea-based option is that the aggressive schedule for the removal and the destruction of the chemical weapons makes it difficult for any country to take on this task," he said.

    Officials say the process - though never tried aboard a ship - is safe. They say the decision to neutralize the chemicals at sea is not an attempt to circumvent any country's environmental regulations.     

    Where the waste from the operation will be processed remains a question. U.N. officials are examining bids from more than 40 companies in various industrialized countries.

    Paul Walker of the Green Cross environmental group says neutralizing the weapons at sea is a good idea. But he's calling for careful disposal.

    "If we treat this toxic waste, it should be treated in an obviously very, very good way, but in full protection of environment and public health so that no one is really injured or even perceives that they may be being injured," he said.

    Pentagon officials say once the stockpiles are neutralized, the waste will be taken to a commercial disposal facility on land and processed the same way other hazardous material is. 

    “This low level effluent will be stored on the ship.  Nothing will be going into the ocean during this process," said Pentagon spokeswoman Elzea.

    U.N. inspectors have identified at least 20 tons of mustard gas and more than a thousand tons of materials used to make sarin and other weapons that Syrian forces used to kill more than a thousand civilians earlier this year.

    Under a deal that followed threats of U.S. military action against the Syrian government, all chemical weapons must be removed from the country by December 31.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora