News & Information
Non-U.S. Government Sources
Features news, articles, think-pieces and documents of relevance to the CWC or the BWC produced by non-government sources. Such sources include foreign government statements, news media, academic institutions, non-profit organizations and other institutions.
New ECBC Explosives Screening Kit Ready for Acquisition Phase
Paul Tinder, BioPrepWatch, 21 November 2013; www.bioprepwatch.com
A lightweight and easy-to-use explosive screening kit is ready to move onto the next phase, which involves low cost commercial production, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center [ECBC] recently announced.
The Colorimetric Reconnaissance Explosive Squad Screening [CRESS] kit uses chemical reactions that produce color changes when they come into contact with four specific homemade explosive materials precursor chemicals. The precursors include two oxidizers and two fuels that could indicate the presence of explosives.
On October 1, the CRESS kit transitions from the ECBC to Joint Project Manager Guardian as a program of record, allowing for the facilitation of low cost commercial production. "The CRESS kit is a perfect example of how ECBC can use its expertise in chemistry and engineering to rapidly develop a solution for the soldier," Augustus Fountain, a senior research scientist for chemistry at the ECBC, said. "Leveraging the center’s expertise in 3D printing and rapid prototyping allowed us to quickly innovate to a unique design for the handheld kit." The handheld CRESS kit produces test results in under two minutes and requires no power source.
The device began initial soldier testing in June 2011 with additional testing in February 2012 after undergoing some minor modifications. The third military utility assessment occurred in April. The CRESS kit received a safety confirmation in August. In October, the kit entered the engineering and manufacturing development phase, the final step before production and development, which is expected to take place in the summer of 2015.
NATO-Russia Council Briefed On Progress of UN-OPCW Mission In Syria
RTT News, 20 November 2013; www.rttnews.com
Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has briefed the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) on the progress made by the joint UN-OPCW mission entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities.
According to a statement issued by the western military alliance, the members of the NATO-Russia Council had a constructive exchange of views with Kaag regarding the progress made by the UN-OPCW mission and the challenges it faces.
NRC members welcomed the update provided by Kaag and expressed their full support to the important work of the UN-OPCW. The NRC nations also outlined the financial, technical and in kind assistance they are providing on a bilateral basis to support the ongoing mission. The NRC thanked the UN-OPCW for the detailed and comprehensive briefing, noting that it has shown how difficult and vital the mission's task is.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted that the substantial UN-OPCW effort continues to require the international community's full support and the Syrian authorities' full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2118.
Rasmussen, as chairperson of the NATO-Russia Council, also congratulated the OPCW on winning the Nobel Peace prize and wished the organization every success in continuing the important work it has undertaken in Syria.
Syria is widely believed to have at least 1,000 tons of chemical weapons in its arsenal. The OPCW-UN Joint Mission was established to carry out a UN Security Council resolution on the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons material and equipment.
In September, the UN Security Council had adopted a resolution calling for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW "for the expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic's chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof."
Notably, the UN resolution followed a Russia-U.S. accord in the wake of a chemical weapons attack near the Syrian capital Damascus on August 21 in which hundreds of people, mostly civilians, were killed. Soon after the UN resolution was passed, Damascus agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention.
As Special Coordinator of the joint mission, Kaag is responsible for overseeing all activities on the ground undertaken by the OPCW and UN personnel.
Syrian Chemical Arms Might Be Destroyed Aboard Ships
Global Security Newswire, 20 November 2013; www.nti.org/gsn
The world's chemical-arms watchdog on Wednesday said it would be "feasible" to eliminate Syria's chemical-warfare stockpile on an ocean-based platform or vessel, the Associated Press reported.
"All options are on the table," said Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The statement came after Albania, Belgium and Norway ruled out hosting destruction of the materials, which the Syrian government two months ago admitted possessing and agreed to relinquish.
In the United States, officials are considering either burning the materials in five ship-based incinerators or chemically neutralizing them at sea with transportable disposal equipment, the New York Times reported, quoting high-level government insiders. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry obliquely referenced the two alternatives on Monday, Obama administration sources told the newspaper.
One insider, though, said the United States is still seeking a nation to take custody of 1,000 tons of chemical-warfare materials stockpiled by the Syrian government. Assad's regime agreed to their destruction after an August nerve-gas attack raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention in his country's civil war.
It remained uncertain what authority would assume the possible task of destroying the arms on the high seas, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Any such effort would take place under OPCW oversight, the Times reported.
Questions also linger over the potential environmental implications of an at-sea disposal effort. Officials were cited as saying that the possible approach would fall in line with U.S. and European Union safety rules, but it was unclear if incinerated or chemically neutralized warfare materials could be dropped in the ocean.
Destroying chemical arms over the ocean "can be done," and the United States and Japan have each undertaken such efforts in the past, former OPCW official Ralf Trapp told Reuters for a Tuesday report.
Eliminating the Syrian stockpile by similar means would create "many technical and legal challenges," Trapp said. "But it may be an alternative worthwhile considering."
Kaag Says Substantial Work Needed in Syrian Mission
Bryan Cohen, BioPrepWatch, 18 November 2013; www.bioprepwatch.com
While recent progress was made, substantial work is needed in the effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission said on Friday.
Kaag made the remarks as part of a statement delivered to the 34th meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Executive Council. Kaag reported on the progress of the operational planning group after a recent meeting in The Hague. She said the participants worked to determine a consensus that would allow the joint mission to meet its ambitious deadlines.
Kaag said she is coordinating with officials in Damascus, Washington, New York and Moscow and addressing the concerns of Member States regarding the safety, security and mission logistics related to joint mission activities.
"I was able to flag a number of key concerns for the joint mission and also to communicate the progress we have made," Kaag said. "I have also had the opportunity to continue these conversations in my meetings with delegations here in The Hague, and have conveyed emerging issues for the attention of the (OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü) and (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon)."
Kaag said the joint mission will be flexible and responsive to developments on the ground in Syria in an effort to meet its June 30 deadline to complete the mission’s mandate. "Now that the joint mission offices are fully established, we look forward to remaining in close contact with Member States, and I remain available for consultations on any issue as it arises," Kaag said.
U.S. Army Disposing of Furnaces Used to Destroy Chemical Arms
Global Security Newswire, 18 November 2013; www.nti.org/gsn
The U.S. Army is in the middle of a $1.3 billion project aimed at breaking down incinerators it used at bases around the country to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The Army is about one-third of the way through a $310 million initiative to scrap an enormous chemical incinerator at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama that over the course of its life cost $2.4 billion to construct and run.
Tim Garrett, the site project manager at Anniston, said the incinerator has to be destroyed by law because the technology is too particular to be adapted for other uses.
At the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon, a $2.8 billion furnace is being scrapped, according to the Defense Department. The demolition of a $3.7 billion incinerator at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah is expected to start soon. The $2.2 billion chemical demilitarization machinery at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas has already been leveled.
Originally, some critics objected to the construction and use of the massive chemical furnaces in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon and Utah out of concern they would create clouds of toxic fumes that would sicken the surrounding communities. However, the Centers for Disease Control says no nearby populations were endangered or injured by the chemical disposal project.
"This place has the safety record of a library or a public school," Garrett said of the Alabama chemical destruction effort.
The United States still must destroy its last two chemical arsenals at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. Those sites, however, will be using chemical neutralization technology rather than incinerators.
Research Shows Anthrax Can Stay in Cells for Days
Marjorie Clark, BioPrepWatch, 18 November 2013; www.bioprepwatch.com
Research recently published by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne showed that anthrax bacteria can hide in human cells for days, evading both the immune system and antibiotics. The research findings were published in the Thursday edition of Cell Reports.
"The anthrax bacteria kills people in a very short period of time, and this is in large part due to the production of the anthrax lethal toxin," Gisou van der Goot of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne said. "This toxin disarms our immune system, but also, as very recently shown, affects our heart."
Van der Goot said researchers looked at how the toxin was delivered to the cells and discovered two main ingredients: the damaging lethal factor and a protective antigen. The antigen is required for cells to move the toxin for storage. Researchers confirmed that channels created by the antigen to facilitate movement might be capable of moving the toxin into protective sacs within the larger cell.
Once inside the sacs, the toxin can hibernate without decaying for days. Researchers also found the toxin can be passed to other cells during cell reproduction. Van der Goot said this is why anthrax is so deadly, but new understanding of its behavior comes with an upside. "By studying these interactions, we can learn more than how to fight anthrax infection," van der Goot said. "We also learn a lot about how cells work."
Albania Rejects Request to Host Syrian Chemical-Arms Destruction
Global Security Newswire, 15 November 2013; www.nti.org/gsn
Albania announced on Friday it would not allow Syria's chemical weapons to be destroyed on its soil, dealing a setback to the disarmament effort the same day an international body weighed a destruction plan for the munitions, Reuters reported.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a televised address that he denied the U.S. request to host destruction of the Syrian arms, which angry protesters decried in recent days in his country's capital. "We lack the necessary capacities to get involved in this operation," said Rama, who assumed his post two months ago.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] Executive Council had planned to approve on Friday a chemical-weapons destruction plan crafted by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. However, the 41-member council adjourned its meeting in The Hague during the day as it waited to hear whether Albanian would host the destruction work. As of press time, the chemical-weapons council still was expected to make a decision later in the day. An OPCW source told Reuters on Friday that there "will be no host country in the decision this afternoon."
Assad agreed in September to eliminate his roughly 1,300 metric tons of sarin nerve agent and mustard gas following international condemnation of an August 21 chemical-arms attack on citizens during the nation's bloody civil war.
The OPCW Executive Council reportedly was reviewing a draft destruction plan on Friday that calls for most chemical materials to be extracted from Syria by the end of the year and destroyed elsewhere.
Albania joins Norway in denying requests to become the site of destruction activities. Belgium and France also have been cited as possible hosts.
Nations are helping the OPCW-UN chemical-weapons effort in varied ways. Norway on Thursday said it would send troops and ships to Syria, despite rejecting the role of host for the chemical stocks. Denmark and Russia have considered offering similar assistance. Countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland also have contributed money for the disarmament work, which Assad said could cost $1 billion.
Anthrax Vaccine Program Publishes Test Results
Marjorie Clark, BioPrepWatch, 13 November 2013; www.bioprepwatch.com
PharmAthene announced on Monday that data from its anthrax vaccine program was published in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology’s November issue. The article, "Increasing the Potency of an Alhydrogel-Formulated Anthrax Vaccine by Minimizing Antigen-Adjuvant Interactions," discusses the company’s SparVax recombinant protective antigen anthrax vaccine program, and the work of the program’s scientists in achieving stability and enhanced potency in the vaccine.
The vaccine program worked in collaboration with many institutions, including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The collected analytical data shows the interaction between rPA and an immune-stimulating adjuvant has subtle changes, such as improvements in the substance’s ability to provoke an immune response and enhanced survival in mice in anthrax vaccine potency tests.
"There is a compelling need for next-generation anthrax vaccines, based on modern vaccine technologies, that offer the potential for improved safety, convenience and cost-effectiveness for the U.S. government and its citizens," Dr. Peter Fusco, the vice president of immunobiology and assay development for PharmAthene, said. "Subunit vaccines, like SparVax, which consist of a purified recombinant antigen and an immune-stimulating adjuvant (Alhydrogel), are being evaluated for their potential to provide a safer and more consistent alternative to partially-purified microbial cell filtrates or extracts. We are very encouraged by the additional data that has been generated, which furthers our understanding of the characteristics that differentiate SparVax from other anthrax vaccines."
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health and BARDA provide funding to the anthrax vaccine program.
OPCW-UN Joint Mission Verifies Destruction of Aleppo Chemical Weapons Site
Bryan Cohen, BioPrepWatch, 12 November 2013; www.bioprepwatch.com
The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] and the [United Nations] (UN) in Syria verified on Thursday that a chemical weapons site in Aleppo was dismantled and long abandoned.
The mission, which is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, verified the previously unvisited site. The site represents the 22nd site of the 23 sites disclosed by Syria.
"The additional site inspected is in the region of Aleppo and was one of the two sites that could not be visited earlier due to safety and security reasons," a UN spokesperson said. "The site was confirmed as dismantled and long abandoned, with the building showing extensive battle damage."
Syrian personnel conducted the verification using sealed cameras as per the guidance of the inspection team. The team fully authenticated the geographical location and the time at which the footage and images were captured.
The spokesperson also announced the launch of a new website dedicated to sharing information about the joint mission in Syria. The site provides background on the establishment of the mission, its mandate and its activities related to destroying Syria’s chemical weapons program. The site is currently only available in English, but a version in Arabic is expected to follow at a later time.
OPCW-UN Joint Mission Website
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