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US to Develop Machines to Destroy Chemical Weapons in the Field

December 10, 2015 (Photo Credit: MARIO TOSTI/AFP/Getty Images)


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is going to develop two prototypes of machines that can destroy chemical weapons on the spot and avoid the complex logistics of transporting such arsenals.

Most of the 1,300 cubic meters (46,000 cubic feet) of chemical weapons that the Syrian regime handed to the international community were neutralized in 2014 on a US Navy ship, then transformed into waste that was treated in different sites around the world.

The devices now envisioned by the Pentagon will allow for such weapons to be destroyed in situ, according to a statement from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which has awarded contracts to build the prototypes.

Such chemical agents will be able to be transformed into "safe output," the statement said.

Current methods like incineration or hydrolysis – breaking a molecule's bonds though the use of water – require a lot of water and create hazardous waste that requires further processing, it added.

Two companies – SRI International based in Menlo Park, California, and Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas – won the contracts.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal in 2013 under the terms of an international agreement after outrage over use of such arms in attacks that killed hundreds of civilians.

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