Current Issue
April 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

It Might Be Hard to Collect Syria’s Chemical Weapons, But Neutralizing Them Isn’t That Complicated

Rounding up and securing all of Assad's chemical weapons will no doubt be challenging, but the actual act of destroying them isn't quite so difficult

In an address last night, President Obama laid out his stance on the use of chemical weapons by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, saying that “the Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons” and that the U.S. would postpone military strikes to try to work out a diplomatic solution. This morning, NBC news reports, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said that the Syrian government had indicated it would join the international Chemical Weapons Convention and was “ready to inform about the location of chemical weapons, halt the production of chemical weapons and also show these objects to representatives of Russia, other states and the United Nations.”

The logistics of rounding up and securing all of Assad’s chemical weapons will be challenging, but the actual act of destroying them isn’t quite so difficult. As we wrote recently, the Pentagon had just wrapped up development of a mobile facility for breaking down chemical weapons, which works by chemically neutralizing and cooking the weapons.

While sarin gas and other chemical weapons capture the imagination with their cruelty, as chemicals, they are not particularly complex. Here, The University of Nottingham’s Periodic Videos explores the chemistry of sarin gas, showing what it is, how it works, and why chemical weapons are such a different class of weapon.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Pentagon Just Built a Mobile Chemical Weapons-Neutralizing Factory
If Syria Uses Chemical Weapons, Here’s How They’ll Work

Tags
About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus