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Mediterranean Sea To Possibly Become Site of Chemical Weapons Dump 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the scuttle-the-gas dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has proposed destroying at least 1000 tons of the confiscated Syrian chemical weapon stockpile out at sea, which some fear will destroy delicate ecosystems vital to sea and human life alike. The OPCW claims the plan is 'technically feasible' and is apparently willing to risk ecological disaster to destroy the toxic contents of the weaponry in or above the sea. Members of the press were told, 'the group is considering whether to destroy the chemical weapons in the ocean, either on a ship or by loading them onto an offshore rig.'"
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Mediterranean Sea To Possibly Become Site of Chemical Weapons Dump

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  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @08:25PM (#45571085)
    We'll never go.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 01, 2013 @08:31PM (#45571121)

      unlike DC, we're still not sure if there's intelligent life on mars.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        unlike DC, we're still not sure if there's intelligent life on mars.

        I see multiple errors with that statement, as it's got multiple parsing options. First, if we all "unlike" DC, it'll still have a FaceBook preference.
        Next, not quite sure what the official name of a "dangling prepositional phrase" is, but you could read that is "DC is sure there's life on Mars even though we aren't" as opposed to "we're sure there's no intelligent life in DC."

        Meanwhile, what sort of /. moron thinks "Insightful" means either "funny" or "agrees with my political point of view"?

    • by game kid (805301)

      I was thinking of shooting Sol with them, but I fear we'd fuck up somewhere and it'll phoenix out of the star all ISON-like, if the rocket doesn't blow up en launchpad first.

      • I was thinking of shooting Sol with them, but I fear we'd fuck up somewhere and it'll phoenix out of the star all ISON-like, if the rocket doesn't blow up en launchpad first.

        For reference, it takes less deltaV to reach Alpha Centauri than Sol.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          One of the reasons we change velocity when putting stuff on earth or other planets is because we normally want the object to survive. So if you don't care do you really have to do that? Objects traveling faster than Earth's escape velocity can certainly still hit the Earth right?

          Assuming you're in a perfectly circular orbit around something with no atmosphere, if you shoot a bullet directly at it (perpendicular to orbit), the bullet will still keep losing altitude - because what other relative force would t
          • Re:Send them to mars (Score:5, Informative)

            by Patch86 (1465427) on Monday December 02, 2013 @04:33AM (#45572783)

            Short answer is "no". Orbital mechanics don't work like that. (Big disclaimer- I'm not an expert, and while what I'm about to type should be basically correct, I can't guarantee (at this time in the morning) that I haven't made some mistakes).

            Your basic mistake is assuming that the bullet you're firing is stationary before you fire it, so all you're having to do is propel it towards it's target. It isn't. The bullet (and the gun, and the marksman) are all orbiting the sun at 29.8 km/s (which is the speed that the Earth is orbiting at). By "orbiting at 29.8 km/s", what we mean is "travelling in such a way as to miss the Sun at 29.8 km/s". So if you want your bullet to hit the Sun, you need to cause it to stop doing that- you need it to lose 29.8 km/s of orbital speed. I know you were only using it as a metaphor, but for reference- a bullet from a typical gun travels (i.e. changes velocity) at less than 0.5 km/s.

            Counter intuitively, travelling to Alpha Centauri would be much easier (although of course it would take a long time!). Solar escape velocity starting from Earth is only 42.1 km/s, which means that you only need to at ~13 km/s before you're away from the Sun's gravitational grip. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Earth's orbital velocity is already quite fast, so getting to escape velocity means adding a relatively small amount (albeit to get to an overall high speed). Secondly, gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance- that is, moving 100 km closer to the sun will increase the gravity you experience by more than moving 100 km away from the sun will decrease it. Without getting into the messy details of it, this means that the necessary changes in velocity get sharper the closer you get to the sun- hence why Earth (which seems quite close to the Sun, in the grand scheme of things) is in a stable orbit at 29.8 km/s, but could escape completely for a mere 13 km/s more.

            Clear as crystal?

            • by TheCarp (96830)

              Works for me, but, I also played way too much Kerbal Space Program. I think XKCD described it best: http://xkcd.com/1291/ [xkcd.com] at least in the alt text:
              "Shoot for the Moon. If you miss, you'll end up co-orbiting the Sun alongside Earth, living out your days alone in the void within sight of the lush, welcoming home you left behind."

            • If you've got an object in the same orbit as Earth, can't you just reduce its tangential velocity a little bit (say, 10% or so) and wait for it to spiral into the Sun? Or would it do something else, like stabilize at a closer orbit or slingshot or something?

              • by Patch86 (1465427)

                Or would it do something else, like stabilize at a closer orbit or slingshot or something?

                That's it exactly. If you were to fire your gun in the perfect direction to maximise the likelihood of getting the bullet to the Sun, all you will do is reduce the bullet's orbital velocity by 0.5 km/s. That is, instead of orbiting the Sun at 29.8 km/s, it will now be orbiting the Sun at 29.3 km/s. The upshot of which, it will still be a completely stable orbit, only marginally closer to the Sun than the shooter is.

          • by TheCarp (96830)

            I like the other responses explanation but try this one too.... the sun is a moving target. If your delta-V is fixed (so you have a fixed final speed relative to your starting position but, can choose the direction) ie, you have a gun, a gun which can bring an object to earth escape velocity. Score.

            Now you are shooting a moving target, so you have to lead it. The faster its moving, and further away it is, the more you need to lead it. The required lead angle is directly proportional to both relative speed a

            • How do you detonate something in an anaerobic environment?

              • by TheCarp (96830)

                Easily, most explosives don't require air, even black powder comes with its own oxidizer, and others don't even require that. In High school we were shown the decomposition reaction for nitroglycerin (or as the teacher used to point out: if you follow normal naming conventions it is glycerol trinitrate). No oxidation needed, one big unstable molecule that is liquid at normal temps/pressures breaks down into 6 smaller molecules which are in gaseous.... resulting pressure change is just immense.

                Or.... even ea

          • by ultranova (717540)

            Assuming you're in a perfectly circular orbit around something with no atmosphere, if you shoot a bullet directly at it (perpendicular to orbit), the bullet will still keep losing altitude - because what other relative force would there be to increase the altitude?

            Short answer: https://kerbalspaceprogram.com// [kerbalspaceprogram.com]. Not completely accurate, but a great way to learn basic orbital mechanics anyway.

            Long answer: no, because you're moving sideways and so will the bullet. If you were to shoot a bullet towards the Sun

        • Could you elaborate? That doesn't seem intuitive. I was able to find this [wikipedia.org], which shows the sun at 30. I was unable to find what Alpha Centauri would be. Also, are you comparing a direct hit of Sol with a direct hit of Alpha Centauri? Do the other stars in the Centauri System affect things? I don't know much about the subject but am interested in the counter-intuitive.
        • So, you want to take the first shot that could start an interstellar war? On the other hand, it could be like sending them chocolates, maybe they will like it!
      • Let's see, take an old reliable workhorse like Delta II. It can take about 2,200lb outside Earth orbit, so it would need about 100 launches to lift 100 tonnes of Syrian chemical weapons, at $50 million per launch. The success rate of Delta II (most reliable ever) is about 98%.

        So if we are willing to spend $5 billion and live with the likelihood of two launch failures, possibly spreading chemical agents all over the place, we could do it. Or we can just dump it into the sea.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          an easier way. place the stuff on the launch pad and press launch... I don't think they even have any weapons that would do much if released at several kilometers up.

      • Re:Send them to mars (Score:4, Informative)

        by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @10:03PM (#45571627) Homepage

        http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/shooting_for_the_sun/ [csicop.org]

        This is why Sol is the worst target possible.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          That article makes the false assumption that to hit the sun you need to reduce the relative velocity to zero.

          Assuming no atmosphere if you want to get from a perfectly circular orbit around an object to the objects surface and you don't care about surviving you don't have to reduce your velocity. All you have to do is to head directly towards the object (perpendicular to orbit). Barring outside interference (other objects) there would be no force increasing your altitude so you will eventually crash at a hi
          • Re:Send them to mars (Score:4, Informative)

            by rubycodez (864176) on Monday December 02, 2013 @12:45AM (#45572189)

            No, you have not studied orbital mechanics and so make hilarious statements. Let's pretend we're looking at the solar system as a "clock" in your living room, from the north star's direction, looking south. The earth is moving counter-clockwise and is at 6 o'clock, when you launch your rocket "right at the sun". so your rocket picks up speed in the upward, 12 o'clock direction, even while it still has velocity to the right that it got from earth. Your rocket initially moves inside earth's orbit but in direction of say 2 oclock. By the time earth gets to 3'oclock, your rocket has previously crossed earth's orbit and is flying off the clock upward and to the right, past your ceiling and if it hasn't reached solar escape velocity winds up in a cool orbit from up and to the right, down into the dial of your clock, around the center somewhat inside the dial (moving very fast) and then slowing as it goes up and to the right again.

            The right way? Against the orbit, before six o'clock we fire to the left and lose most the earth's delta-v, and fall into or near the center. That's the most expensive orbit to make from earth, one that is close to the Sun. Leaving the solar system only takes half the velocity.

            • by TheLink (130905)

              The rocket won't fly off any more than the earth will.

              Say you launch something at the sun at 100kph (while going around at orbit speed) and then you cut the rockets. Relative to the sun there's will be no increase in orbit speed except from whatever it gets from reducing its altitude relative to the sun (potential energy), but as you get lower you need higher and higher speeds to maintain orbit. There is no other force except from the sun and that is always towards the sun's direction. So how can it fly off

              • by TheLink (130905)
                OK I realize my mistake. What will happen is it will end going in a different shaped orbit.
            • by Talderas (1212466)

              I'm slightly confused. Mostly because I don't see the need to 1. get the payload into the sun immediately and 2. get the payload into the sun period. As far as I'm concerned I don't see much value in attempting to keep most of the space between Earth and Sol clear of debris so if the delta-v necessary to get a payload into an orbit around Sol is cost effective, then why not?

              • by rubycodez (864176)

                we send probes including our solar-weather ones there, even inside the orbit of Mercury (Helios A and B for example). But it takes more energy to just reach Mercury than to launch something out of the solar system

          • by fatphil (181876)
            > All you have to do is to head directly towards the object

            YES!!!!!!!!!!

            And that's the *hard* bit - you have to cancel *all* of our orbital speed, which is huge.
        • by Karellen (104380)

          That's only the case if you want to go into a controlled orbit very close to the sun. But we don't want to do that.

          To crash something into the sun, we'd be happy with any orbit which is elliptical enough such that the perihelion is inside the sun's radius. We don't care what velocity we have at that point, even if it's theoretically high enough to send us back out to the orbit of Earth (or even Neptune) on the other side of the orbit, because the act of hitting the surface of the sun will remove any problem

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        launchpad explosion might be actually a good way to neutralize a lot of the agents though? mustard gas disintegrates at fairly low temperature, sarin they could just not mix up(I'd guess they would have used the shells that mix it up in flight..).

        and mediterranean becoming a "dump" implies that they would be just dumping them there, instead of converting them to less hazardous material. it's not like their chemical weapon of choice was polonium anyways. most of the stuff is relatively easy to convert into s

    • We'll never go.

      That's probably true of the Mediterranean Sea, for many middle-income families in North America.

      ... Of course, that's not the only consideration ...

    • by plopez (54068)

      Nah. It would be cheaper just o release them in a major Chinese city where no one will notice the difference.

  • by NIK282000 (737852) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @08:40PM (#45571165) Homepage Journal

    Its a trap! They are trying to kill us all!

  • by niftymitch (1625721) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @08:40PM (#45571167)

    Iran has some nasty toxic natural gas wells.

    They are not alone but pyrolysis using these H2S rich poison gas feeds
    could just burn the stuff up.

    A strong draft up a tall stack maintained by a natural gas burner could
    keep any dis-assembly location in a negative pressure condition and
    burn up almost any toxic gas. Many toxic gas weapons have a minimum
    bursting charge and may simply be detonated on a sand pit in a largish
    coffin , think reactor containment vessel.

    Sulfuric acid recovered could be used to detoxify the pit. Fuse up the
    weapon.... roll it down a ramp.... a min later thump and the fumes are
    pulled up the stack.

    Sure stuff could go wrong but the risks seem to be the lesser of evils.

    Yes time is an issue, building something like this might take a lot of time
    say 3-5 years but there is no EPA in Syria so perhaps 14 months.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no good place on land or sea to dump this stuff, unless maybe the Russians accepted huge sums of money for dumping in Siberia.

    Destroy the munitions in place with the proper personnel on hand to verify the destruction.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Destroy the munitions in place with the proper personnel on hand to verify the destruction.

      I tought that was the main point for which they took them from Syria: to stop destroying them by dumping on civilian population under army/insurgents (not sure which) supervision.

    • It's difficult to set up that kind of large scale destruction facility safely in the middle of a war zone.

      Add to that: There are people on the various sides who would be sorely tempted to shoot up the place and release the chemicals while wearing the uniforms etc of the other side.

      The alternative is putting in a large and well armed security force (read that as some nation's troops) to stop the war.

      The whole course of the past two years of UN and other negotiations have revolved around not being able to do

  • Sounds like they aren't planning on just dumping the weapons into the ocean, they are going to literally destroy them. As another poster said, probably by incineration. So no, you won't be fishing up rusted nerve gas canisters.

    • by murdocj (543661) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @08:45PM (#45571197)

      For a better and less inflammatory description of what is proposed, see http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/30/21686393-us-to-destroy-syrias-chemicals-at-sea-weapons-watchdog-says [nbcnews.com]
       

    • by Shoten (260439) on Sunday December 01, 2013 @09:01PM (#45571275)

      Sounds like they aren't planning on just dumping the weapons into the ocean, they are going to literally destroy them. As another poster said, probably by incineration. So no, you won't be fishing up rusted nerve gas canisters.

      You hit it on the head.

      The thing to balance here isn't the threat of all that stuff being dumped into the ocean, but the ecological consequences should a more-accessible site for consolidation and destruction of the weapons be attacked. An attack would almost certainly release some agent into the atmosphere, and of course should the attackers make off with any of the weapons or chemicals then you'd probably have an even larger release down the road. Despite what the Call of Duty franchise of games put forth, isolated military sites in the middle of open ocean are quite easy to defend, and make it very difficult for an attacker to abscond successfully with anything of significant weight. The defenders can easily establish a no-go zone that extends for quite some distance, and use active means (divers, passive sensors, sonar) to detect anything larger than a fish that approaches either above or below the surface. It's a lot harder to deny access to such a large area on land, and even harder still to find a country willing to accept such a large stockpile on their own territory (which means transporting the hazardous materials through their territory, starting with either a large airport or a seaport...both of which would suffer greatly in the event of a spill). This way, the materials can leave Syria and stop posing a major threat to civilians as soon as they are over the water.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      "So no, you won't be fishing up rusted nerve gas canisters."

      So now how am I supposed to build up my stockpile? Being an evil genius post 9/11 is getting harder and harder these days. If it gets any worse i'll have to lay off my staff of henchmen, sell the assets to al qaeda and get a union job.

  • So is shoving up the rears of Assad, and the OPCW. In that case, why wait. Maybe the president can give the green light and command that this grabage be made exposed by bombing their warehousing sites? Maybe let Assad enjoy the "fruits" of his labor?
  • He's found so may uses for mushrooms of all varieties that I'm sure if he had a chance to get some samples of what he needed to break down, he could find a much better way than this article explains. See his Ted talk. [ted.com]
    • before some wise-guy points it out, I did in fact mean to say mycelium instead of mushrooms.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      just a simple gas furnace takes care mos of the compounds.

      most chemical weapons are quite volatile. that's why nobody has take a continent out with them. you can't, unless you have some kind of james bond villain delivery mechanism to deploy a millions and millions of canisters.

  • isn't it?
  • Have the individuals with those ideas eat it!
  • You pretty much can't cause an ecological disaster in a place that's already too toxic for life. Err.. most life.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday December 02, 2013 @01:51AM (#45572409)

    The article is so bad it can be considered a troll.

    How dare this shit get by the editors, even on Farkdot.

  • and what the exact plan to neutralize or destroy them is?
    Without that information, it is completely useless to discuss the issue of whre it will be done.

  • Be on the lookout for two headed fish!
  • This will raise hell out of the premise of 1190. Or maybe not, if we view Cuegan & clan as a mutated line of posthumans.

  • Almost criminally so. No one is dumping anything in the Med (or at least one would hope not). Building the plant on a ship avoids a lot of political and public issues that might happen if you wanted to build it on land somewhere.

    We (the US) dumped a HELL of a lot of chemical agents (and other dangerous stuff) into the oceans after WW II. I hope we've learned our lesson.

  • They made the mess; clean it up in their territory. That already exposes lots of innocent people and other countries. Why make it *more* mobile and *more* public - and *more* vulnerable? And by the way, Assad should be Employee #1.

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