By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 18, 2014 – Teams aboard the U.S. ship MV Cape Ray continue to neutralize materials from Syria's declared chemical stockpile, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today.
Personnel aboard the ship began the chemical materials neutralizing process in international waters earlier this month.
“As of this morning, the crew has neutralized just over 15 percent of the DF [methylphosphonyl difluoride], which is a Sarin precursor,” Kirby said. “This amount has been verified by the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”
The second material to be neutralized is sulfur mustard, also known as HD.
The neutralizing technique uses field-deployable hydrolysis systems that mix the chemicals in a titanium reactor so they become inert. A safe pace of neutralization operations will increase gradually, Pentagon officials said. The process is expected to take about 60 days, officials added.
Italian officials loaded 78 containers of the Syrian chemical materials aboard the Cape Ray on July 2, and the U.S. government-owned ship left Gioia Tauro, Italy, and headed to sea with 600 tons of chemicals.
Syria delivered 1,300 metric tons of chemical materials for neutralization. The Cape Ray teams will neutralize 600 tons, and the byproducts, called effluent, will be sent to Finnish and German facilities to be destroyed, officials said. The remaining 700 tons of material will be delivered to commercial and government facilities in Europe and the United States for neutralization.
While the leftover neutralized material will be considered hazardous waste, it cannot be used to make chemical weapons, officials said.
Joint chemical weapons teams from the OPCW and the United Nations began securing Syrian chemical sites in early October, and the Syrian government gave up the last of its declared chemical stockpiles June 23.
The MV Cape Ray was modified and deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to dispose of the chemical agents in accordance with terms Syria agreed to late last year.