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Mobile Systems for Destruction of Toxicants


Development of Limited-Scale Mobile Systems for Local Destruction of Highly Toxic Substances

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-APC/Air Pollution and Control/Environment
  • ENV-WDS/Waste Disposal/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Biochemical Physics, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, Russia, Moscow reg., Puschino\nTsNIIKhM (Chemistry and Mechanics), Russia, Moscow


  • US Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, USA, MD, Aberdeen Proving Ground\nTechventions LLC, USA, DE, Wilmington\nDSTL, UK, Porton Down

Project summary

The project is focused on a comparative examination of present-day prospective deactivation methods for highly toxic substances of various nature and for secondary reactant mass. The results obtained will be used to develop a mobile system for destruction of highly toxic organic and organoelement compounds, for processing and macroencapsulation of secondary toxic products, and for their transportation to storage or disposal sites.

Construction of specialized large-scale facilities for processing highly toxic substances has been repeatedly discussed in Russia. This strategy, which would be quite natural for Europe and the USA, has been impeded in Russia by additional difficulties.

First, the top administrators of regions (subjects of the Federation), supported by the local population, would act against setting up large-scale facilities of this kind in their territories, particularly destruction facilities for substances to be transported "from all over the country". This attitude is explained by the fact that operations involving toxic substances in our country have generally been accompanied by unpunishable infringement of technological regulations.

Second, transportation of large amounts of toxic substances (including chemical weapons) would present a serious problem. Even a preliminary analysis of this problem shows that its ramifications exceed those associated with the strategy proposed in this project in terms of complexity, cost, and hazard.

The current situation is essentially different. It has been decided to consolidate all chemical-weapons destruction (CWD) facilities into one or two major plants. This will lead to a substantial economy of investment funds and give impetus to the process of chemical disarmament. This decision permits transportation of toxic substances from storage locations to a CWD plant. This is a difficult task, but it can hardly be circumvented in view of the current situation, in which the construction of seven CWD plants, as previously planned, is not an optimal solution.

However, one should also bear in mind that toxic substances are actually being transported when this is dictated by operational requirements. Moreover, a number of unforeseen emergency situations have occurred, requiring urgent deactivation to be executed on a local scale, but timely measures have not been taken.

Therefore, effective destruction of toxic substances by means mobile facilities at any location where an emergency situation may arise is an important task.

Processing of secondary reactant mass, as well as its localization, macroencapsulation, and transportation to storage or disposal sites has also grown into a major issue.

It should be emphasized that fast and effective destruction of secondary reactant mass is an extremely important task, because previous deactivation projects of any kind are known to have received insufficient funding in Russia, which resulted in distrustful public attitude. Therefore, apart from practical results, such activities will popularize the idea of environmentally safe living conditions and enhance public confidence.

A huge variety of presently known substances are dangerous to living organisms. Apart from chemical weapons, they can be found in any class of organic or inorganic chemicals. Even though they differ in composition and nature and exhibit perse properties, every specialist working on a deactivation technique should be aware of certain characteristics that are common to all of them.

First of all, chemical weapons can produce toxic effects even under relatively mild conditions because of their high chemical reactivity. Therefore, simpler and more stable substances should be used in developing a new deactivation technique or refining a previously known one. Indeed, if a technique can be used to reliably destroy a more stable model compound, then it will be even more effective as applied to a more reactive chemical.

After a new technique is developed and optimized by using surrogate chemicals, it must pass a series of certification tests performed with the use of natural toxicants.

This modeling approach dictates that particular care should be taken in examining reaction completeness since the products obtained in a deactivation process must not contain even traces of toxic components. As candidates for model studies, one may consider some insecticides and herbicides widely used in agriculture.

In comparing prospective approaches and mobile deactivation facilities, we analyzed the methods that had been previously employed to destroy chemical weapons and proved to be effective on a chemical level. We were primarily concerned with the safety and reliability of each method, as well as with the possibility to implement it in a compact apparatus that can be mounted on a mobile platform.

As a result of our preliminary analysis, we found it reasonable to restrict our work to a comparative critical examination of the following six scientific and technical approaches, which may be used in various combinations depending on the particular chemicals to be destroyed:

(1) catalytic spray oxidation;
(2) destruction of toxic substances by electrical and electrochemical methods;
(3) alkolysis or silanolysis of highly toxic substances in alkaline solutions;
(4) high-temperature reduction by ammonia;
(5) high- and low-temperature oxidation of toxic substances;
(6) destruction of toxic substances by means of biotechnologies.

The actual work will be focused on developing the last four approaches. In particular, we are planning to use experimental facilities for studying the ecologically promising low-temperature oxidation of toxic substances by potassium nitrate and environmentally safe schemes of biotechnological destruction of pollutants.

We emphasize that the proposed research will be focused on the deactivation of highly toxic substances of industrial origin and on the destruction of the toxic secondary reactant mass produced in the course of primary processing of chemical weapons.

The proposed strategy includes the accomplishment of the following tasks:

- critical and well-substantiated selection of relatively inexpensive deactivation, localization (Localization of toxic substances in emergency situations is interpreted as their solidification with the use of an inert or chemically active material, such as concrete, liquid glass, or polymer. Localization of toxic substances in standard (planned) situations is performed to ensure conditions for safe transportation of the substances (or toxic products obtained as a result of their processing) to storage, macroencapsulation, or disposal sites), and macroencapsulation techniques for toxic substances;

- substantiation and design of optimal destruction, localization, and macroencapsulation schemes and equipment for toxic substances, based on a comparative study of oxidation, plasma chemical decomposition, hydrolysis, or reduction of their model analogues;

- analysis and application of biotechnological destruction techniques for toxic secondary reactant mass;

- development of a system for monitoring the emission of toxic substances into environment during the operation of a mobile facility, based on conventional techniques and equipment.

After performing some analytical studies and experimental tests of the methods chosen above for actual development with regard to their utility for processing secondary reactant mass, we will design a mobile facility for deactivation, localization, macroencapsulation, and transportation of original toxic substances, secondary reactant mass, and products of their processing.

We will design a prototype versatile mobile platform based on a Ural diesel truck.

The planned activities include both research (80%) and development (20%).

In the course of our work under the proposed project, we will develop occupational safety standards for localization, macroencapsulation, and transportation of both toxic substances and products obtained by processing secondary reactant mass.

Pollution levels at the operations premises will be monitored by means of standard methods only, because development of new monitoring techniques is not included in the proposed project.


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