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The chemical weapons should be destroyed on Syria’s territory

11 July 2014 / 19:07:36  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The impending destruction of part of Syria’s chemical arsenal in the sea south of Crete has provoked violent reactions on the island and in Greece in general. As GRReporter previously reported, public organizations and unions have announced their intention to occupy the NATO military base on the island to prevent the ships that will patrol around "Cape Ray'' from leaving while the destruction procedure of the weapons is taking place.

At the same time a large part of Greek society recognizes that it is not very well aware of what will happen and if the destruction of the chemical weapons is likely to cause an environmental disaster in the Mediterranean Sea.

GRReporter sought the answers to these questions from Chairman of the Association of Greek Chemists Athanasios Papadopoulos, Associate Professor at Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki.

Mr. Papadopoulos, what are the risks of pollution due to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons in the sea? According to some commentators, the method to be used is experimental and nobody knows wha the consequences of its application might be.

We have assurances that there will be no discharge of chemicals into the sea. Assuming that these assurances are accurate, as we do not have any evidence to refute them, the only danger to the marine region is a possible accident and that is our concern. All major environmental disasters in human history occurred not because someone did something on purpose, but because of accidents.

Therefore, our question to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the following: What is the reason for this procedure to take place in an enclosed sea, such as the Mediterranean?

What will happen to the waste products?

They stated that they will not be discharged and will be stored on dry land in a region that is not in Greece or the Mediterranean.

How safe are they?

They are not 100 percent safe, but their activity has nothing to do with that of the so-called chemical weapons. The most dangerous thing associated with them is sarin gas, which worries us the most.

What does the Syrian chemical arsenal include? How dangerous are these gases?

We have no information on this, so we have requested a detailed description, which we have not yet received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As this concerns Syria’s weapons, we are almost sure that they include sarin as well as the neurotoxic VX gas.

I think it would be best to carry out the initial procedure on the territory of Syria. The waste products could have been transferred afterwards. The problem is that the specific procedure, the hydrolysis, requires seawater.

Is it true that it is to be applied for the first time?

No, it is not. However, it will certainly be applied for the first time on such a large scale. In theory, the method is safe. I want to emphasize this because our position as the Association of Chemists is very delicate. We have to be very careful not to cause panic among citizens for no reason, because we have to stay away from various political games. Unfortunately, there is already political speculation with regard to the procedure.

The Association informed about the possibility of discharging chemicals into the sea long before the discussion about it. And some took advantage of our message. You know that telling half the truth is often worse than lying about something. They said the Association of Chemists expressed concern. Actually, the Association of Chemists is concerned about the lack of information on what is to be done.

Our position is that the method is safe and, theoretically, it can be applied. It should be clear that no chemical reaction is 100 percent effective. This means that if you use 100 grams of a substance you cannot destroy 100 grams of the active ingredient and obtain 100 grams of product. You will obtain 80 grams of product and you will have 20 grams residue. I am saying this in a quite simple way, which is wrong from a chemical point of view, for the sole purpose of making clear what I mean.

I think everything will take place in absolute safety. Nobody wants an environmental disaster to happen. However, I also think that things would be much simpler if the public was informed in a correct and comprehensive manner about the procedure and its consequences.


Tags: SocietyChemical weaponsSyriaCreteHydrolysisAssociation of Greek ChemistsRisk of accidentEnvironmental disaster
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