France set to destroy World War I chemical weapons

Space technology company Astrium was recently chosen by the French Ministry of Defense to destroy chemical weapons left in World War I-era stockpiles.

Astrium, a subsidiary of EADS, will design, build and operate a plant that specializes in the neutralization and elimination of the government’s leftover chemical weapons, according to UPI.

The chemical munitions often turn up in farmers’ fields every planting season. Of the estimated 66 million chemical artillery shells fired by the British, French and Germans during World War I, it is believed as many as one-quarter failed to detonate. The shells were filled most often with chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas.

The stockpiled weapons, many of which are rusting and unstable, are currently stored by the French Interior Ministry in Suippes, UPI reports.

The ministry recently announced that an automated system will be used at the Mailly-le-Camp site in Aube, France, to eliminate 46 tons of chemical munitions every year, beginning in 2015.

Astrium’s specialized plant will utilize a remote controlled weapons handling system and pyro-chemical safety measures will be implemented throughout the process. A detonation chamber will be used to destroy the munitions.

The technology Astrium intends to use for the facility was developed by Japan’s Kobe Steel, a specialist in the destruction of chemical weapons via a shielded enclosure, according to UPI. Kobe Steel has aided in the construction of several plants throughout the world that specialize in the destruction of chemical weapons.