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Pure Appl. Chem. Vol. 74, No. 12, p. iv (2002)

Pure and Applied Chemistry

Vol. 74, Issue 12

Lectures presented at the IUPAC Workshop: Impact of scientific developments on the Chemical Weapons Convention, Bergen Norway, 30 June-3 July 2002


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 here.

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

Edwin D. Becker
Workshop Editor

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).

Program Committee:
G. Parshall (USA), T.D. Inch (UK), D. Männig (Germany), C.K. Murphy (USA).

*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.


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