A UK based company is developing a transportable plasma arc system for the destruction of hazardous and harmful chemical weapons.
Tetronics International, headquartered in Swindon, has been awarded a contract by government agency the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop its technology after a successful concept study phase.
A number of countries have or had chemical and biological weapons programmes. Many of these have been destroyed or are in the process of being destroyed. Some chemical weapon programmes await completion of decommissioning and destruction. The nature of the weapons makes this task extremely challenging. Increasing geopolitical instability heightens the risk of the prohibited use of these weapons and the need to eliminate existing stockpiles.
The weapons are viewed as a particularly abhorrent tool of warfare because of their indiscriminate and horrific effects, the damage they inflict and long term risks they pose long after they are initially deployed, damaging lives and the environment. As such these weapons are banned by the international community under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
Tetronics is a global leader in using plasma arc technology to process challenging waste streams to make them safe. The current demonstration project with Dstl will involve simulated chemical agents and agent precursors being subjected to the plasma arc destruction in a specially designed chamber, to rapidly react or transform the hazardous agents eliminating the hazards. The plasma arc chamber uses intense temperature and ultra-violet light to maximise the destruction of hazardous components in seconds.
The new contract is the second stage of a phased development project led by Dstl. Assuming successful demonstration of the application of the core plasma process in phase two of the project, the next phase will involve packaging the technology to make it transportable, so it can be quickly deployed to different locations around the world.
Tetronics’ transportable technology offers potential benefits over traditional destruction methods such as fixed incineration or hydrolysis operations, and this concept could also have applications for other toxic materials.
Graeme Rumbol, Chief Executive of Tetronics International, said:
“This technology has the potential to transform de-commissioning operations. Chemical and biological weapons have the capacity to inflict indiscriminate human suffering. It will allow a new rapidly deployable approach to the safe and environmentally responsible decommissioning of these weapons stockpiles eliminating the potential for prohibited use.
“We were pleased with the progress from last year’s concept study and are looking forward to continuing our work with Dstl, so we can develop a fully functional prototype as soon as possible.”
Stephen Hartridge, Principal Engineer, Dstl said:
“Chemical Weapons pose particular technical challenges with respect to their movement, handling and destruction. Plasma arc is an exciting technology that could provide added flexibility over more widely used destruction technologies whilst maintaining critical aspects such as safety and environmental impact.”
Notes to editors:
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.
Dstl is a trading fund of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.
Dstl works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas. Around 60% of MOD’s Science and Technology Programme is delivered by these external partners and suppliers.