Chemical Weapons Destruction Site at Shchuch’ye Completed
Senator Dick Lugar places an 85 mm chemical shell into a briefcase to demonstrate the proliferation risk during a visit to the chemical weapons depository at Shchuch'ye, Russia in 2007. (DTRA photo)
Among the numerous tributes and success stories associated with the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is the construction of the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Shchuch'ye, Russia, located 1,000 miles southeast of Moscow, which opened on May 29, 2009.
The facility is expected to eliminate approximately 2 million chemical weapons containing VX nerve agent and other chemical weapons that had been stored since the Soviet era.
The site at Shchuch'ye is considered one of the most dangerous chemical weapons arsenals in the world. Both the lethality of the weapons – about 5,460 metric tons of Russia’s nerve agent stockpile – and the absence of security at the site posed an enormous proliferation threat.
The final completion of the project was difficult. Although design and site preparation began in 2001, the project met with contractual problems, delays and cost overruns over the course of a decade. The United States provided $1 billion for the facility. In addition, Russia, Canada, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom supported the project.
A two-stage destruction process is used to convert lethal chemical agent into a significantly less toxic substance that is stored in special bunkers at the site. The bunker facility is designed specifically to reduce risks of environmental contamination and exposure to the workers and the public.
At the facility’s opening ceremony, Senator Dick Lugar said: "Our own national security is bolstered by a vigorous international campaign to contain and eliminate all chemical weapons stockpiles. Global terrorists remain on the prowl, looking for new targets and, no doubt, new weapons. Destroying the huge cache of weapons at Shchuch’ye will make Americans safer."