Destruction of chemical weapons

Introduction

Each country that belongs to the OPCW must:

  • destroy all chemical weapons it owns or possesses;
  • destroy all chemical weapons it may have abandoned in another country; and
  • destroy facilities it owns or possesses which were involved in the production of chemical weapons.

Several countries have declared chemical weapons, amounting to nearly 70,000 metric tonnes of toxic agents in 8.6 million munitions and containers. The biggest arsenals that must be destroyed are in Russia and the United States. The Convention requires member countries to destroy their chemical weapons within 10 years after the CWC entered into force—by 2007. However, it is possible to request an extension of this destruction deadline by up to five years, until 2012, if there are problems with the destruction programme. The approval of the other OPCW member countries is necessary for any extension of the destruction timeline. Most of the possessor States Parties have been granted with extension deadlines, some of them up to 2012. More information about destruction deadlines.

Member countries cannot destroy chemical weapons in any way that they like. First of all, the principles and methods for the destruction of chemical weapons have to strictly follow the obligations of the Treaty: para. 12 of Part 4 A of the Verification Annex. On the second hand, the Convention stipulates that the destruction process cannot harm people or the environment. Accordingly, the countries that possess chemical weapons are required to use safe technologies for their destruction. The OPCW continuously monitors the destruction of chemical weapons at a number of chemical weapons destruction facilities around the world.

The OPCW also regularly inspects all former chemical weapons production facilities declared by Member States in order to verify that they are all shut down and destroyed, or converted for peaceful purposes. Most of these facilities have been either completely destroyed or converted so far. The OPCW is overseeing the destruction/conversion of the few remaining facilities.

The OPCW is additionally required to monitor the destruction of chemical weapons that are old or deteriorated or that were abandoned by one country on the territory of another. Under the Convention, member countries must declare such weapons to the OPCW and undertake to destroy them.  Due to the unique nature of these discoveries and the hazard they represent, the Technical Secretariat adopts an approach of flexibility while working with the affected Member States to achieve the goals of the Convention.

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