Chemical Demilitarization is big business, especially in Russia. The costs for safely destroying over 40,000 tons of chemical weapons has been estimated by Col-Gen Stansilav Petrov, the head of the Defense Ministry's ABC troops to be more than 32 trillion rubles (5 billion USD). As a way of paying this enormous cost, First Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov has suggested that Russia’s technology be used to destroy the Japanese CW left in China at the end of WWII. Col-Gen Stansilav Petrov must believe in the Russian CW Demil process because there are several reports that he has invested heavily in private businesses hoping to capitalize on Russian Demil and presumable demilitarization in China, if Russia successfully gets the work.
Russia’s Demil process has been described in many places, but never completely, and is apparently based on "plasma-thermal" destruction. The testing of this technology is so secret that Shikany, the former Russian center for CW development and testing, has again been "sealed off" with visits granted only if people have received personal invitations from close relatives who are permanent residents. This restricted access was announced in July by the President of Russia. The governor of the Saratov oblast, Dmitry Ayatskov, favors the new status for Shikany because the chemical center will again be financed from the federal budget. Presumably Col-Gen Stansilav Petrov also favors the restricted entry to Shikany in order to protect his new technology and better oversee his investment.
Exactly how does the Russian demilitarization technology work? In the following excerpts from an interview by Anna Scherbakova with the director of the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT), Prof. Viktor Petrunin [Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, p. 6, No. 26, 1997], we find out.
Q: Viktor Alexeyevich, what are the main requirements of a war gas elimination technology?
A: Any such technology is required to ensure the elimination of war gases, be safe, based on trustworthy scientific findings obtained by means of tests involving real war gases, which guarantees that it will be approved by an independent commission of technical experts.
Q: In light of this, could you provide more details on your institute's studies?
A: In early 1980s, GosNIIOKhT developed a chemical weapons elimination mobile complex, which relied on a two-stage technology, including ammunition dismantling, which differed from the American direct burning method. At the first stage, the war gas is detoxified, whereupon the stock is to be burnt. The same approach has been adopted today.
Q: It is this technology that has been proposed for the Schuchye chemical weapons elimination facility?
A: It is based on three principles. The first one is discreteness. The second is batch nature. And finally, the third, fundamental principle of the Russian chemical weapons elimination technology is its two-staged character.
Q: How great are chemical weapons volumes that can be eliminated starting from the commissioning of the facility?
A: It's too early to talk about the start of the facility's operation.
Q: What do you think is the future of facilities having to do with chemical weapons production and elimination?
A: Given the level of modern technology, it will not be hard for the chemical weapons elimination facilities to switch to environmentally safe processing of toxic waste.
ASA's recommendations to China: Get the full details before you sign up for this process. The inhabitants of Shikany may not be so lucky.
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