Lectures presented at the IUPAC Workshop: Impact of scientific developments
on the Chemical Weapons Convention, Bergen Norway, 30 June-3 July
During the last two years, IUPAC has carried out a major project to
provide scientific advice to the Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons (OPCW) regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
This treaty, now ratified by 145 nations, has been in effect since 1997.
It prohibits the production, storage, or use of toxic chemicals as weapons
of war. The operation of the treaty will be examined in the First Review
Conference, to be held by the States Parties in April 2003.
IUPAC was asked to provide advice on scientific and technological advances
that might influence future operation of the CWC. With substantial outside
financial and staff assistance, we held a workshop in Bergen, Norway
in July to examine the impact of scientific developments on the CWC.
A number of eminent scientists described advances in various areas of
the chemical sciences, and the 79 participants from 34 countries discussed
the implications for the implementation of the CWC. A report, giving
IUPAC s findings and conclusions, was provided to OPCW and is
reproduced as a Technical Report elsewhere in this issue (pp.
2323-2352), while papers based on most of the lectures are given
The intent of the lectures was to furnish background for the participants
on the principal scientific issues involved in implementing the CWC
and to provide a review of the current status and trends in aspects
of organic synthesis,chemical production technology, and analytical
chemistry methods. Some of the papers deal with issues related directly
to chemical weapons, but others are aimed at a description of current
chemical methods themselves, with the implication that they might be
applied to chemical weapons.
The introductory paper by John Gee, then Acting Director General
of OPCW, sets the stage for the workshop with a summary of the operations
of OPCW and a description of some of the major challenges facing the
CWC. He suggests ways by which scientific advances might be able to
improve the implementation of the CWC. The cornerstone of the CWC is
verification that each of the States Parties is abiding by its terms.
Ron Manley, former Director of Verification at OPCW, amplifies
on this aspect, with a summary of the lessons learned during the treaty
s five years of operation.
Many chemical weapons are based on substances similar to those used
by the agrochemical industry for crop protection. Urs Müller
describes the advances in chemistry and molecular biology that have
revolutionized the search for compounds that are effective against pests
but safe for handling. Unfortunately,these discovery methods, used also
by the pharmaceutical industry for beneficial purposes, have the potential
to be applied to the development of even more lethal chemical weapons.
Mark Wheelis carries this theme further in addressing the use
of biotechnology to supplement classical chemical synthesis and thus
permit the production of chemical weapons from novel precursors that
are not subject to the reporting requirements of known weapons agents
or their precursors. He also describes the development and potential
deployment of nonlethal chemical agents, which are permitted under the
CWC for law enforcement purposes but banned as weapons of war. Kurt
Faber extends the discussion of biotechnology by giving a number
of examples of enzyme-triggered cascade reactions that can result in
high-efficiency production of chemicals.
George Parshall describes a number of new developments in chemical
synthesis and manufacturing technology that might permit a chemical
weapons production facility to avoid detection using current inspection
methods. For example, with the widespread use of versatile, multipurpose
production facilities for making fine chemicals, it is sometimes difficult
to recognize the conversion from commercial use to illicit production.
Moreover, new processes designed to reduce emissions and protect the
environment also lead to fewer telltale emissions from the production
of prohibited substances. M.M. Sharma carries this point further
with a number of examples of the use of catalytic processes, as well
as photochemical, electrochemical, and ultrasonic reactions, which have
made manufacturing on a small scale very easy and efficient. Even household
microwave ovens can be used in a variety of synthetic reactions. Holger
Löwe describes perhaps the ultimate synthesis on a small scale
in microreactors, which provide improvements in efficiency and safety
via enhanced process control and heat management. Microreactors offer
the benefit to industry and society of on-demand production of toxic
substances to avoid the hazards of storage, but they could potentially
be misused by terrorists. In principle, a small but effective chemical
plant can be built in a suitcase.
The potential risks to the worldwide chemical industry from terrorism
are explored by Marybeth Kelliher. She describes actions being
taken by industry to prevent any misuse of industry facilities or diversion
of chemicals to illicit purposes, partly through enhanced security measures
developed in parallel with safety and environmental codes adopted under
the chemical industry s Responsible Care program.
Although some technological advances provide increased threats to the
implementation of the CWC, others are providing greatly improved methods
of detection. Herbert Hill provides a comprehensive assessment
of analytical methods that are being used or could readily be adapted
for the detection of chemical warfare agents, including sensors that
rely on surface acoustic waves, electrochemistry, spectrophotometry,
and immunochemistry. He emphasizes the great potential arising from
combinations of two or three different techniques. Maria Luque de
Castro provides an overview of measures that can be taken to accelerate
or automate preliminary steps in analytical procedures, such as sampling,
weighing, dissolution, leaching, and preconcentration.
Takehiko Kitamori returns to the use of microchips, but as analytical
instruments, rather than as microreactors. He points out that all the
unit operations (mixers, reactors, etc.) common in conventional chemical
engineering can be treated in their micro counterparts that permit integration
onto a small microchip. He gives a number of examples in which very
large enhancements in sensitivity and substantial reductions in measurement
can be achieved as compared with conventional analytical methods.
Sergey Varfolomeyev discusses biosensors, including nanotechnology
methods, for detecting and monitoring chemical and biological warfare
agents. He deals specifically with analysis of neurotoxins that serve
as cholinesterase inhibitors and describes efforts to develop enzymatic
methods for the destruction of organophosphorus neurotoxins. He also
covers immunochip technology for the detection of pathogenic microorganisms.
The evolution of instruments from a laboratory environment to field
use is a difficult and expensive process, as Robert Turner points
out. He describes the problems and the management processes needed to
produce rugged instruments economically, particularly when there is
a limited market. The problems of contamination and quality control
of each component are emphasized. The quest for maximum selectivity
and sensitivity must be balanced against cost, complexity, and reliability.
Together, these papers provide an unusual insight into a number of
diverse modern technologies that are finding a wide variety of applications,
including potential applications to the chemical weapons area.
Arrangements for the workshop were made by Leiv K. Sydnes, Professor
of Chemistry at the University of Bergen, where the meetings were held.
Staff support for organizing and conducting the program was provided
by the U.S. National Academy of Science, and local staff assistance
was furnished by the University of Bergen. IUPAC is indebted to the
following sponsors for substantial financial support:
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- Ploughshares Fund
- NATO (Advanced Research Workshop)
- U.S. National Academies
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
- Amersham Health AS
- University of Bergen
- Royal Society (London)
- International Council of Chemical Associations
International Advisory Board:
A. Hayes (Chairman, UK), W. Ando (Japan), J.F. Bunnett (USA), W.D. Carpenter
(USA), S. Carré (Italy), M.-B. Chen (China), R. Cornelis (Belgium),
C. Eon (France), F. Galembeck (Brazil), T.D. Inch (UK), F.Ingman (Sweden),
D. Männig (Germany), M.S. Meselson (USA), N.J. Moreau (France),
B. Myasoedov (Russia), N.S. Nudelman (Argentina), G.W. Parshall (USA),
G.S. Pearson (UK), J. Ralston (Australia), M.M. Sharma (India), P.S.
Steyn (South Africa), L.K. Sydnes (Norway), T.T. Tidwell (Canada).
G. Parshall (USA), T.D. Inch (UK), D. Männig (Germany), C.K. Murphy
*Lectures presented at the IUPAC Workshop, Impact of
Scientific Developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention, Bergen,
Norway, 30 June-3 July 2002. Other presentations are published in this
issue, pp. 2229-2322.