Chemical Weapons Destruction

“I congratulate the work of the United Kingdom and Canada here at Shchuch’ye. London and Ottawa are indispensable partners in our efforts to destroy this dangerous stockpile.”

– Former U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar on a visit to the Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction facility in August 2007

At the end of the Soviet era, the Russian Federation inherited a massive arsenal of chemical weapons. These weapons pose serious security and proliferation threats. If such weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists, the potential casualties could be extremely high. Given the enormity and urgency of the task of eliminating Russia’s chemical weapon arsenal, Canada and other members of the Global Partnership are providing assistance to Russia to build the facilities necessary to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile.


At approximately 40,000 tonnes, Russia’s declared stockpile of Category I chemical weapons is the world’s largest. Destroying these weapons, as Russia has undertaken to do pursuant to Articles I, IV, and V of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is both a lengthy and expensive undertaking.

The Chemical Weapons Convention CWC requires all states parties that possess chemical weapons to destroy them in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. While a state party may select and apply the appropriate destruction methods for its chemical weapons, certain methods (e.g. dumping in any body of water, land burial, or open-pit burning) are not permitted.

The CWC, which also determines the rate and the sequence of chemical weapons destruction, stipulates that final destruction of national stockpiles is to be accomplished no later than 10 years after the Convention’s entry into force (i.e. by April 29, 2007). In exceptional circumstances, however, a five-year extension of this deadline may be granted (i.e. to April 29, 2012). The Russian Federation has formally requested and received this extension.

In October 2005, the Russian government adopted a revised chemical weapon destruction plan,which outlines how Russia plans to achieve 100 percent destruction by 2012. This has since been revised as the Russian Federation has announced that destruction is scheduled to be complete in 2015. Destruction of all chemical weapons is to be verified through the continual on-site presence of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Although the Russian Federation will not be able to make the 2012 deadline, the Russian government remains committed to completing the destruction of their declared chemical weapons stockpile.

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Russia's Stockpile

Russia’s chemical weapons are stored at seven facilities, six of which are located west of the Ural Mountains, and one to the east. Five of these sites are repositories for deadly organophosphorous agents (i.e. nerve agents) such as Sarin, Soman and VX, which make up 80 percent of Russia’s total stockpile of chemical weapons (approximately 32,500 tonnes). Two others house the vesicants (i.e. blister agents): mustard, lewisite and lewisite/mustard mixture, which make up 20 percent of the total stockpile (roughly 5,500 tonnes). While most of the nerve agents remain in their weapons casings—including artillery shells, rocket and missile warheads, aerial bombs and spray tanks—the blistering agents are stored in bulk containers.

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International Assistance

International support for Russian chemical weapons destruction under the Global Partnership will enhance international security and safety by helping to prevent terrorists, or those that harbour them, from acquiring or developing chemical weapons and/or related materials, equipment and technology. By helping Russia to meet its CWC obligations, the Global Partnership strengthens multilateral non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament efforts.

Given the enormity and urgency of the task of eliminating Russia’s chemical weapon arsenal, Canada and other members of the Global Partnership—Belgium, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States—are assisting Russia in the construction of the facilities necessary to safely destroy its chemical weapon stockpile.

Russia’s first chemical weapons destruction facility (CWDF) was established at Gorny, commencing operations in December 2003 and completing destruction of the site’s 1,125-tonne blister agent stockpile in December 2005. The Kambarka facility commenced destruction of the site’s blister agent stockpile in March 2006. In September 2006, the first nerve agent destruction facility opened in Maradikovsky. Leonidovka commenced operations in June 2008 and Shchuch’ye in March 2009. In November 2010, the sixth destruction facility opened at Pochep. The last remaining facility, Kizner, is slated to become operational by 2012.

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Shchuch'ye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility

Canada considered the Shchuch’ye CWDF a key priority, as it will destroy Russia’s most lethal and human-portable (i.e. proliferation-prone) chemical weapons. The arsenal consists of 5,440 tonnes of the deadly nerve agents Sarin, Soman and VX, which are stored in more than 1.9 million artillery and rocket-launched munitions. The artillery shells pose a particular risk because they are small enough to be carried in a briefcase and are thus especially attractive to terrorists. The Shchuch’ye arsenal has the potential to kill everyone on Earth several times over.

Before the Global Partnership was formed, Canada contributed $5.35 million to the construction of the Shchuch’ye facility. In 2000 and 2001, Canada contributed $350,000 through Parsons Delaware for the development of design documentation for a 3.89 kilometre access road to the site’s industrial area, design and partial construction of 10 kilovolt and 110 kilovolt power lines to supply electrical power to the facility, and reconstruction of a spillway structure on the Chumlyachka River. In 2002, Canada also contributed $5 million directly to the Russian Munitions Agency which, together with support from Italy, was used to partially fund a 105 kilometre natural gas pipeline. The pipeline project was concluded successfully in September 2003.

In September 2004, Canada authorized the Federal Agency for Industry (formerly the Russian Munitions Agency) to apply $330,000 remaining from Canada’s $5 million contribution in 2002 to the construction of a 1.319 kilometre patrol road at Shchuch’ye.

Following the creation of the Global Partnership, Canada’s activities at Shchuch’ye fell under the auspices of the GPP. As an initial project under the Global Partnership, Canada contributed $33 million for the construction of an 18 kilometre railway connecting the chemical weapons storage depot near Planovy to the destruction facility at Shchuch’ye. The railway is a critical project as the rail spur is required to safely and securely transport the approximately 1.9 million chemical munitions located at Shchuch’ye from the storage facility to the CWDF. Canada contributed the funds for this project through the United Kingdom’s bilateral agreement with Russia. On November 19, 2003, Canada and the United Kingdom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the contribution, under which the United Kingdom was responsible for implementing the project, in partnership and consultation with Canada as Canada’s bilateral agreement with Russia was not yet in place. After an extensive planning phase, railway construction commenced in March 2006 and was completed in November 2008.

On February 7, 2005, Canada signed a contribution agreement with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). Under this agreement, NTI contributed US $1 million to support construction of the railroad at Shchuch’ye. NTI’s funds were applied to the construction of a bridge across the Miass River, which was completed in September 2007.

On January 18, 2005, Canada and the United Kingdom signed a second MoU in Moscow on cooperation to support Russia in destroying its chemical weapon stockpiles. This MoU provided the framework to make further significant financial contributions to the construction of the Shchuch’ye facility, including up to a $10 million contribution for further key industrial infrastructure projects. These projects included the construction of a local public address system to provide timely information to area residents in the event of an incident at the Shchuch’ye storage or destruction facility, which was completed in September 2008, and the installation of high-speed, secure inter-site communication lines connecting the destruction facility, storage depot and local military command posts, which was completed in October 2007.

In October 2005, Canada announced an additional $55 million to finance the provision of the vast majority of equipment for installation within the second main destruction building (MDB-2) at the Shchuch’ye facility. Canadian funds, which were contributed through the second Canada-U.K. MoU, were used to supply the specialized Russian-built equipment needed to destroy nerve agent munitions within the MDB-2. MDB-2 will double the chemical weapon destruction capacity of the Shchuch’ye facility and contribute directly to the earliest possible destruction of the site’s deadly nerve agent stockpile. The equipment included catalytic reactors ($14 million) which were delivered to the site in February 2007, and destruction process lines ($20 million) which were delivered to the site in July 2008. The remaining standard and non-standard equipment was delivered by the end of the 2008, and the Shchuch’ye CWDF began operations in March 2009.

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International Partnership at Shchuch’ye

Canada coordinates its efforts very closely in chemical weapons destruction with other members of the Global Partnership, including on the margins of the quarterly Executive Council meetings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. In addition, Canada, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. formed a working group for coordinating policy and construction at Shchuch’ye in 2003. The group facilitates the efforts of the four nations most directly involved in managing the construction of the Shchuch’ye facility to inform each other of key national policy decisions and to coordinate construction activities. Close coordination with other donors, particularly with those engaged at Shchuch’ye, has proven invaluable to Canada to date, as it has, among other things, facilitated the resolution of project implementation problems, led to the identification of potential problem areas and best practices, and allowed the timely and regular exchange and discussion of critical project information.

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Kizner Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility

At the G8 Sea Island Summit in June 2004, Canada and Russia signed a bilateral treaty that provided the legal framework under which Canada can implement chemical weapon destruction projects. In November 2008, Canada signed an overarching implementing arrangement with the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade (formerly the Federal Agency for Industry), which defined the scope of Canada’s contributions of approximately $100 million for the Kizner CWDF, which is scheduled to be constructed between 2008 and 2012.

The Kizner facility, like Shchuch’ye, will be one of Russia’s key facilities for the destruction of organophosphorous chemical warfare agents (i.e. nerve agents). The type of nerve agent and size of munitions at Kizner are nearly identical to the arsenal at Shchuch’ye, therefore the Russian authorities have decided to use the same destruction process and similar design as at Shchuch’ye. As such, Canada is in a position to apply the considerable experience and expertise acquired through extensive and sustained involvement at Shchuch’ye.

Canada has provided assistance at the Kizner facility, pursuant to a $100 million commitment made at the 2006 G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. Given that the design of Kizner is virtually identical to Shchuch’ye, Canada focused on providing similar destruction equipment for the Kizner facility’s two main destruction buildings. In December 2008, a contract was signed for the provision of catalytic reactors for Kizner. Project implementation completed on schedule in January 2010. In February 2009, a contract was signed for the provision of the two metal parts furnaces and auxiliary equipment which are an integral part of the destruction process. Work is progressing on schedule, all equipment was delivered to site July 2010 and installation is nearing completion. In August 2009, a contract was signed for the provision of the destruction process lines and in August 2010, a contract was signed for the provision of the munitions unloading equipment for the destruction process lines. This equipment plays an integral role in the demilitarization process. Together, these four projects provide the core equipment for the CWDF: the munitions unloading equipment take the munitions from the transportation container and transport them onto the destruction process lines; the destruction process lines drill and drain munitions; the catalytic reactors absorb and neutralize any otherwise lethal agents that are released in gas form from the munitions during the destruction process; and the metal parts furnaces burn off any residual chemical agents that remain in the munitions casings. All equipment has been delivered to site and installation progress is continuing.

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Green Cross

Canada is also supporting the efforts of Green Cross International to provide independent and objective information about Russia’s chemical weapons destruction program to the populations living in the vicinity of chemical weapon storage and destruction facilities. Green Cross’s network of outreach offices facilitates grassroots understanding and education about chemical disarmament and addresses public concerns and anxieties about related health, environment, economic and social issues. In November 2004, Canada committed to provide US$100,000 per year for four years to fund the establishment and operation of a Green Cross Public Outreach Office is Izhevsk (Udmurt Republic) in order to increase awareness about Russian plans and programs at the Kizner CWDF. Canada has increased this value and contributed a further US $150,000 for the continued operations of the outreach office in 2009; approximately US$170,000 in 2010 and close to US$200,000 in 2011.

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