Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some Interesting Data About Poison Gas Weapons

1. Mustard is classified as a "persistent" agent. How persistent? Not a year goes by when a Frenchman or two (and some of his farm animals) doesn't die from plowing up a mustard-gas shell from WORLD WAR ONE.

There is an entire unit of the French Army devoted to disposing of World War One HE and mustard gas shells that surface on the old battlefields. The freeze-thaw cycle pushes them to the surface, and farmers die when their tractors run over them. The HE and mustard are still sufficiently virulent to kill or maim, and that stuff is going on a hundred years old, not just fifteen.

2. In the March 2003 UN report about Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction there is the following on page 77 (Page 79 of the pdf file), paragraph 1 of the report

" :

“ The Sulfur Mustard contained in artillery shells that had been stored for over 12 years, was found by UNMOVIC to be still of high purity. It is possible that viable filled artillery shells and aerial bombs still remain in Iraq. “

3. The question of long-term degradation becomes academic if the binary precursors are not mixed. (Iraqi shells using binary components were designed to mix en route to target. This was seen in shells found by a Polish unit,and in a single shell set up as an IED, but recovered unexploded by US troops.)

Following is a brief quotation from an authoritative source.

Efforts to Lengthen Shelf Life

# According to the CIA, nations such as Iraq have tried to overcome the problem of sarin's short shelf life in two ways: The shelf life of unitary (i.e., pure) sarin may be lengthened by increasing the purity of the precursor and intermediate chemicals and refining the production process.

# Developing binary chemical weapons, where the two precursor chemicals are stored separately in the same Shell (projectile)|shell, and mixed to form the agent immediately before or when the shell is in flight. This approach has the dual benefit of making the issue of shelf life irrelevant and greatly increasing the safety of sarin munitions

Bottom line ? Some of these “short life” munitions found in Iraq might remain lethal a century from now !


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