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The Challenge of Old Chemical Munitions and Toxic Armament Wastes

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-829190-6
337 pp.

In this study, sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation, 20 experts from 10 countries analyse the feasibility of detecting, locating, handling, transporting, storing and disposing of old chemical munitions and toxic armament wastes. Their history, physical and chemical properties, options for dealing with them and data on destruction technology are presented. Chemical warfare agents and chemical munitions were buried or dumped at sea in Europe after World Wars I and II. Knowledge about their effect on people and the environment is limited, and there have been accidents involving old chemical munitions—not least those in which fishermen in the Baltic Sea have been injured. Many of the issues related to old chemical munitions and toxic armament wastes are complicated both to analyse and explain. In order to understand the magnitude and complexity of the problem, it is necessary to study its history.

Until recently, there was relative lack of interest in the issue of old chemical munitions and toxic armament wastes because, during the cold war, any activities of a military nature were regarded as necessary because of the East-West confrontation. Environmental groups expressed concern about old chemical munitions and toxic armament wastes, but damage caused by military activities was often felt to be a 'necessary by-product' of such activities. With the end of the cold war and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Europe, the opportunity arose to rethink the problem and to explore new ways to cope with toxic armament wastes.

Past efforts related to chemical weapon (CW) disarmament focused on concluding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Its goal is to eliminate all chemical weapons and to ensure that no new ones are produced. The conclusion of the CWC and its entry into force on 29 April 1997 are significant chemical disarmament measures which will provide new opportunities for dealing with the problems related to old chemical weapons.

Major findings


Part I. Introduction to the problem

1. Introduction(Thomas Stock and Karlheinz Lohs)

Part II. Chemical warfare agents and munition and toxic armament wastes

2. Characteristics of chemical warfare agents and toxic armament wastes (Karlheinz Lohs and Thomas Stock)

3. Old chemical munitions and warfare agents: Detoxification and degradation (Thomas Stock and Karlheinz Lohs)

Part III. Coping with old munitions and toxic armament wastes: technical experience

4. Decontamination of former military bases in eastern Germany (Karl Lehmann and Reiner Escher)

5. Decontamination of the Wehrmacht gas laboratory at Spandau Citadel, Berlin: Technical and organizational experiences (Wolfgang P. W. Spyra)

Part IV. Chemical weapons: past production activities

6. The production of chemical warfare agents by the Third Reich, 1933–45

Appendix 6A. A chronology of German research, development and preparation for chemical warfare agent production

Appendix 6B. German plants that produced chemical warfare agents and their total production output (Bernd Appler)

7. Chemical weapon production in the former Czechoslovakia (Jirí Matousek)

8. The history of chemical weapons in Poland (Zygfryd Witkiewicz and Kazimierz Szarski)

9. Chemical munitions in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the surrounding seas (Judith Perera)

Part V. Chemical weapon disposal and destruction

10. The destruction of old and obsolete chemical weapons: Past experience (Ronald G. Sutherland)

11. The technical challenge of dismantling and destroying old and abandoned chemical weapons (Frédéric Guir)

12. The German programme for the disposal of old chemical weapons (Hermann Martens)

13. Postwar destruction of chemical weapons in the former German Democratic Republic (Karlheinz Lohs)

14. The storage of old and abandoned chemical weapons in Austria (Josef Stolz)

15. The destruction of old chemical munitions in Belgium

Appendix 15A. Chemical attacks on the Belgian front, 1915-18 (Jean Pascal Zanders)

16. Chemical weapon agent and historic chemical munitions disposal: The British experience (Ron G. Manley)

17. UNSCOM's experience with chemical warfare agents and munitions in Iraq (Ron G. Manley)

Part VI. Sea dumping of chemical weapons

18. Legal problems related to old chemical munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea (Hans-Joachim Heintze)

19. The Baltic and North Sea dumping of chemical weapons: Still a threat? (Fredrik Laurin)

20. Investigation of the ships filled with chemical munitions which were sunk off the Norwegian coast after World War II (Frode Fonnum)

Part VII. Legal issues

21. The Chemical Weapons Convention and old and abandoned chemical weapons (Thomas Stock)

22. The legal problems associated with sites contaminated by chemical warfare agents in Germany (Thomas Kurzidem)

Part VIII. Final discussion and recommendations

23. Conclusions (Thomas Stock and Karlheinz Lohs)

About the editors

Dr Thomas Stock headed the SIPRI Chemical and Biological Warfare Project from 1992 to 1996. He is an analytical chemist by training with research experience in chemical toxicology. He is a co-author of chapters in several SIPRI publications and Yearbooks as well as editor of an earlier volume in this series, and has published extensively on the subjects of verification of chemical disarmament, proliferation, old and abandoned chemical weapons and national implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. He is now employed in private industry.

Professor Karlheinz Lohs, who died while this volume was under preparation, was a chemist and toxicologist by training. He was Director of the Institute of Chemical Toxicology, Leipzig, and a member of the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1970 to 1991. Professor Lohs was a member of the SIPRI Governing Board from 1980 to 1990 and a member of the SIPRI Advisory Committee until his death. In the 1970s and the 1980s he was scientific adviser to the GDR delegation at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament. He was author or co-author of numerous books on toxicology and the problems created by industrial and military wastes. He wrote extensively on toxicology, the scientific aspects of chemical disarmament and historical toxicology issues, and was the author of Delayed Toxic Effects of Chemical Warfare Agents (1975) and co-editor of the SIPRI volume Chemical Weapons: Destruction and Conversion (1980). Professor Lohs contributed chapters to SIPRI publications and Yearbooks. He also worked as a private consultant on waste management and environmental protection.

SIPRI Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies is a series of studies intended primarily for specialists in the field of CBW arms control and for people engaged in other areas of international relations or security affairs whose work could benefit from a deeper understanding of particular CBW matters.

Ordering details

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