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	FACT SHEET/CHEMICAL WEAPONS SHELF LIFE


ASSUMPTION:  A GIVEN STATE CEASES PRODUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS 
FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS.

QUESTION:  HOW LONG WILL THE STOCKPILE WEAPONS REMAIN EFFECTIVE?

ANSWER:  IT DEPENDS, THREE BASIC FACTORS AFFECT THE SHELF LIFE OF 
STOCKPILED CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

THE SOPHISTICATION OF THE TECHNOLOGY USED TO PRODUCE THE CHEMICAL 
AGENTS.  RELATIVELY PURE CHEMICAL AGENTS PRODUCED BY MODERN 
INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES (LIKE THOSE FORMERLY USED BY THE UNITED 
STATES) REMAIN STABLE FOR DECADES.  AS IMPURITIES INCREASE, SHELF 
LIKE WILL DECREASE.  FOR EXAMPLE, UNEXPLODED WORLD WAR I CHEMICAL 
MUNITIONS (MUSTARD, ETC.) STILL SURFACE FAIRLY REGULARLY ON OLD 
EUROPEAN BATTLEFIELDS--THEY REMAIN VERY TOXIC. NERVE AGENTS 
(RELAQTED TO INSECTICIDES) HAVE A VERY LONG SHELF LIFE.  IN 
ADDITION, EVEN WITH IMPURE AGENTS, THE LOSS OF MILITARY 
EFFECTIVENESS IS GRADUAL.  WEAPONS WITH DETERIORIATED AGENT MAY 
STILL HAVE MILITARY VALUE--THEY JUST WON'T BE AS EFFECTIVE AS 
"FRESHER" AGENTS.

THE QUALITY OF THE MUNITIONS CONTAINING THE AGENT.
MOST AGENTS ARE CORROSIVE, AND CERTAIN MUNITIONS CASING MAY 
"RUST THROUGH".  THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM WITH OUR WELL-BUILT 
MUNITIUONS, BUT COULD BE IN OTHER COUNTRIES.  ALSO RELATED IS THE 
STABILITY OF THE EXPLOSIVES OR PROPELLANTS IN THE MUNITIONS.  FOR 
EXAMPLE, THE US HAS CHEMICAL ROCKETS THAT WE WILL SOON DESTROY 
BEFORE THEIR PROPELANTS BECOME USTABLE.

HOW WELL THE MUNITIONS ARE STORED AND MAINTAINED  AGAIN, THIS 
IS NOT A PROBLEM WITH WELL-BUILT AND MAINTAINED US WEAPONS.  
HOWEVER, ALL CHEMICAL WEAPONS REQUIRE PERIODIC MONITORING TO 
ENSURE THEY ARE INTACT (UNDAMAGED), NOT CORRODED AND NOT LEAKING. 
 A HIGH PERCENTAGE OF DAMAGED WEAPONS AND "LEAKERS" MAY INDICATE 
THAT THE STOCKPILE IS NOT SAFE FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO USE IT.  IN 
ADDITION, THE USER MUST MAINTAIN FILL AND CLOSE FACILITIES TO 
TRANSFER BULK-STORED AGENT INTO MUNITIONS CASINGS.

IN SUMMARY, SPECIFIC SHELF LIVES DEPENDS ON OF THE PRODUCTION 
TECHNOLOGY, THE QUALITY OF THE WEAPONS THEMSELVES (THE HARDWARE) 
AND THE QUALITY OF MAINTENANCE AND STORAGE. 
 



 

 



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