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Cape Ray: Neutralization of Syria’s Chemicals started off Crete

U.S. container ship Cape Ray began the neutralization of  Syria’s chemical weapon on Monday, the Pentagon confirmed. US military and civilian specialist form the Edgewood Chemical & Biological Center are processing about 600 metric tonnes of HD sulfur mustard gas and DF, a precursor for nerve gas sarin. The chemicals came via Italy in 78 containers on July 2nd.

The process is expected to be concluded in 60 days and Cape Ray to deliver the result effluent by-products to Finland and Germany in order to be destroyed ashore.

The Cape Ray is equipped with a hydrolysis system that uses substances like water, sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite to make chemical warfare agents safe enough to be disposed of at commercial sites.

Cape Ray is in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea,  off the island of Crete in the South-West. However the exact position of the vessel is not known. However, according to Vaggelis Pissias form the Polytechnic School in Athens, Cape Ray is 250 nautical miles off Crete.

cape ray crete

The neutralization of the Syrian chemical weapons and caused an strong reactions outrage in Crete. According to information from local media, the NATO base in Souda, near Chania, is actively taking part into the process as well as a submarine of the Greek Naval Forces.

Neutralization process risks

Local media speak of  Cape Ray as a “floating bomb” and claim that “the risk of an “accident” that can happen during the neutralization process”.

Evangelos Gidarakos, Professor for Disposal of Toxic and Hazardous Waste Management at the Technical University of Crete warned that “the multiple forms of processed waste are capable and can cause corrosion in the reactor leaks and insulating ducts even blockages in the hydrolysis unit.” With fatal consequences for the Mediterranean Sea.

chemical weapons neutralization

Hydrolisis as a means to neutralize chemical weapon is been used by the U.S.A. however it is the first time it is being done at sea.

To concerns about chemical weapons or their processed products to land into the sea, Baroness Cathrine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative for Foreign Affairs, said in April that ‘all relevant measures in securing a safe and environmentally sound destruction of all the categories of the Syrian chemical weapons’ had been taken. She also pointed out that all these measures were included in ‘a series of public OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) documents’.

Ashton gave assurances that: ‘There is no intention to discharge any chemicals or their effluent after hydrolysis into the sea.’

Cretans react

Local organizations plan a protest today in Chania, while a group of activists is expected to ‘symbolically occupy the sea way with a fishing boat.”

Residents and organizations in Crete are reportedly furious against Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos for having not prevented the neutralization process to take place off Crete. In a letter to locals, Venizelos claimed that it was not possible to avert the use of Mediterranean Sea as it offered the best conditions for the process,” when compared to the Atlantic Ocean.

sources: Reuters, Kathimerini, USDeptofDefence,





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