On Monday, August 11, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that 100% of DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride), the precursor for sarin nerve agent, has been destroyed aboard the Cape Ray. The Cape Ray was tasked with neutralizing 581 MT of DF, the most dangerous of all the precursor chemicals handed over by the Syrian Government. The neutralized DF, whose toxicity has now been reduced by 99.9%, will be stored aboard the Cape Ray while it begins its second task of neutralizing 19.8 MT of sulphur mustard. Upon neutralization of the sulphur mustard the Cape Ray will travel to Finland and Germany where the neutralized chemicals will be disposed of in land-based incinerator facilities. OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, has thanked the U.S. for its efforts in neutralizing these precursor chemicals in an environmentally sound, secure, and efficient manner.
This week the United Nations Environmental Program released a Post-Crisis Environmental Assessment report covering events from around the globe from January-July. The Post-Crisis Environmental Assessment pillar of the Disasters and Conflicts Sub-Program included a substantial section on the removal of chemical agents from Syria. It concludes that “all precautionary measures proposed by UNEP were taken on-board by the Syrian Government and transport of the chemicals went without any environmental emergencies.”
On Thursday, August 14, the OPCW released its most recent chemical agents destruction statistics for the Syrian destruction program. Successful neutralization now stands at 84.3% (1,097.3 MT of the 1,301.3 MT). This includes 94.8% of Category 1 (984.2 MT of the 1,038.5 MT) and 43.1% of Category 2 chemicals (113.2 MT of the 262.8 MT). This increase is mostly attributed to the completion of sarin precursor neutralization on board the Cape Ray, as previously mentioned. Note also that the OPCW total now ascribed to the Syrian declared chemical weapons stockpile, 1,301.3 metric tons, is slightly higher than the OPCW total on July 28 which was 1,292.7MT.