Update on chemical demilitarisation

21 April 2009

A key result achieved in this area during the last three months is the fulfilment by India of its obligations to completely destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile.

Following are the paragraphs related to chemical demilitarisation contained in the opening statement by the OPCW Director-General to the Executive Council at its 56th session.

A key result achieved in this area during the last three months is, of course, the fulfilment by India of its obligations to completely destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile. On 26 March 2009, India notified the Technical Secretariat accordingly. India is thus the third State Party, after Albania and A State Party, to have met its demilitarisation obligations. I wish to sincerely, warmly, and emphatically congratulate India on this laudable achievement, which is the result of a consistent and unwavering commitment shown by India since entry into force of the Convention. This attainment further strengthens the Convention as an effective instrument for promoting the objectives of peace and security.

Another very important development during this reporting period relates to the fact that the number of States Parties that have declared the possession of chemical weapons or of former chemical weapons production capabilities has increased by one, with Iraq’s accession to the Convention on 12 February 2009, and its subsequent submission of its initial declaration.

Iraq submitted its initial declaration on 12 March 2009, and has declared two bunkers with filled and unfilled chemical weapons munitions, some precursors, as well as five former chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs). The Secretariat is now analysing this declaration and continuing its work with Iraqi representatives on certain issues related to it. In this context, I also wish to mention and thank Iraq for having presented yesterday to the Technical Secretariat additional information on the general plans for destruction of its chemical weapons and former production facilities. All in all, I commend Iraq for its committed approach to all these important matters.

Furthermore, I reiterate my warm welcome to Iraq to the OPCW family and my conviction that Iraq is making a significant contribution to the ultimate success of our Convention and to the overall cause of disarmament and non-proliferation. By acceding to the Convention, Iraq has solemnly reconfirmed its determination to leave forever behind, once and for all, programmes related to weapons of mass destruction. Those programmes proved costly to the Iraqi people, having been used in the Iran-Iraq war and having served both as a source of international conflict and as the means for perpetrating internal atrocities such as the one committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Halabja in 1988.

Undoubtedly, history, and the unique complexities that we can envision for the implementation of the provisions of Articles IV and V of the Convention, make the Iraqi accession to the Convention a special case, and one that might pose unique implementation challenges. Here, I wish to reiterate the full readiness of the Technical Secretariat to provide all possible assistance to Iraq as it undertakes the important task of fulfilling its obligations under the Convention. Indeed, for some time now, the Technical Secretariat has worked hard to ensure its coordinated preparedness in this respect.

At the same time, I appeal to those Member States in a position to do so, to be equally prepared to assist Iraq in implementing the different provisions of the Convention. I trust that the OPCW will rise to the occasion, as we identify the different areas, not just in Articles IV and V, but also in Articles VII, X, and XI, where support might be appropriate, to which end the Technical Secretariat will in due course conduct pertinent consultations with Member States.

Destruction activities

I now turn to the destruction activities. Two destruction facilities—Kambarka, in the Russian Federation, and Newport, in the United States of America—have completed destruction operations while two others—at Shchuchye in the Russian Federation and Ruwagha in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya—have commenced such activities.

As at 31 March 2009, the aggregate amount of Category 1 chemical weapons destroyed by all possessor States together was approximately 30,199 metric tonnes, or approximately 43.42%, of the declared quantity of this category of chemical weapons. The amount of Category 2 chemical weapons destroyed to date is 915 metric tonnes, or 51.84% of the total amount declared, while all Category 3 chemical weapons declared have been already destroyed.

As I mentioned earlier, India has completed destruction operations. The OPCW inspectors finalised all necessary on-site activities to allow termination of systematic verification of destruction, and ceased their physical presence at the facility as of the end of March 2009. In addition, our inspectors confirmed the completion of destruction of the former chemical weapons production facility, which had been temporarily converted for chemical weapons destruction purposes.

The Technical Secretariat conducted a second engineering review of the Ruwagha Chemicals Reloading System in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya between 23 and 27 March 2009, just prior to the commissioning of the facility. Reloading operations commenced on 31 March 2009. The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya completed the reloading of mustard on 20 April 2009.

As at 31 March 2009, the Russian Federation had destroyed 12,065 metric tonnes of its Category 1 chemical weapons, or 30.1%, of the aggregate amount declared. The Shchuchye facility began on 5 March 2009 the destruction of rocket warheads filled with sarin (GB) and is at present increasing the pace of destruction, in order to reach an optimum destruction rate, through the use of both processing lines in building 1A. An inspection team was deployed at the site to ensure systematic verification of destruction at this facility. Following the destruction of all declared lewisite in bulk storage tanks at Kambarka, the OPCW inspectors completed the necessary inspection activities, as I referred to before, to allow the conclusion of on-site systematic verification of destruction and termination of inspectors’ physical presence at this facility. The Maradykovsky facility continues the thermal treatment of the reaction mass and of the previously mutilated (by nose-thread welding) empty munitions bodies, which have already been reported as destroyed, while at Leonidovka the draining of reaction mass is ongoing.

I would like to mention that no chemical weapons have so far been reported as destroyed at Leonidovka, although much activity has already taken place there. This is in accordance with the provisions of the approved plan for verification and facility agreement for this facility. As per that agreement, chemical weapons are reported as destroyed once the residual content of the chemical agent in the drained reaction mass is confirmed to be less than 0.1% by weight and the corresponding drained munition bodies have been thermally treated. The Russian Federation has recently notified the Secretariat that it plans to commence operations involving the metal parts furnace around 25 April 2009; incineration of the reaction mass has already started on 16 April.

Since I mentioned the Russian Federation, may I also recall that since the last session I have paid an official visit to this Member State, where I met His Excellency Mr Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, and other high authorities in the Russian Presidency, as well as in the Parliament, and in the Foreign Ministry. The visit demonstrated once again the steadfast commitment of Russia to the full and effective implementation of the Convention, including its solemn obligation to complete destruction of its declared stockpile by the set deadline. Accordingly, I also conveyed to the Russian authorities our gratitude for this commitment, as well as my conviction that the continued financial support of the international community for the Russian destruction programme will benefit not just the programme itself, but also peace and security overall.

As at 31 March, the United States has destroyed about 16,466 metric tonnes of Category 1 chemical weapons, or 59.3% of its declared stockpile. Moreover, I have to say that destruction at the incineration facilities continues at a fast pace. By completing the operations relating to the neutralisation of GB in three leaking one-ton containers at Blue Grass, Kentucky, and the subsequent disposal of the resulting neutralent at Veolia, the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility accomplished the destruction of all the chemical-warfare agents designated for destruction at this facility. Consequently, the Secretariat ceased its physical presence at all three locations declared as part of the facility—Newport, Indiana; the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Transfer System, at Blue Grass, Kentucky; and the Veolia Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility located at Port Arthur, in Texas. Two chemical weapons destruction facilities in this State Party––at Tooele and Pine Bluff––are currently destroying mustard, while two others––at Umatilla and Anniston––are preparing for the destruction of mustard, which is planned to commence in April and July respectively.

I am also very pleased to echo what you just mentioned, Madam Chairperson, in the sense that the United States has offered to host, in June 2009, a third visit by the Chairperson and members of the Council to two of its chemical weapons destruction facilities. That will be the second one to the United States. These facilities are Umatilla and Pueblo, and preparations are well under way.

Finally on the subject of destruction activities, the Technical Secretariat continues to work with Japan and China on a trilateral basis, with the next round of discussions scheduled to take place in June. The current work on the draft detailed plan for verification and facility arrangement for mobile destruction facilities is progressing. It is our hope to have these documents near completion by the end of this year, in time for the anticipated beginning of destruction operations scheduled for the second half of 2010.