The US army is to test a British technique for breaking down chemical weapons into just water, carbon dioxide and salt.
The US has 30,000 tons of chemical warfare agent stockpiled. The British technique, developed by AEA Technology and known as the Silver II process will also be tested on high explosives and solid rocket propellants.
Two Silver II plants, worth £7m, have been built in the UK and shipped to US army bases in Maryland. Silver II, originally designed to deal with nuclear waste, will be competing against four other systems.
The successful contractor will build full scale demilitarisation plants in Blue Grass, Kentucky where 70,000 rockets armed with Sarin and VX nerve agents are currently stored.
Terry Graham, business stream manager at AEA Technology responsible for Silver II’s development, said: `There is growing pressure to ensure that the destruction does not harm the environment and incineration techniques have met with much public opposition.’
The work is being carried out because of the 1997 decision by Congress to ensure the US army had ways of destroying chemical weapons. Many countries have already signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which has led to many of them declaring stockpiles and destroying chemical weapons.
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