UK to Open Chemical Weapons Research Facility to Combat Threats

Published March 15th, 2018 - 01:12 GMT
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls work to remove a vehicle connected to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury from a residential street in Gillingham, southeast England, on March 14, 2018. (AFP/ File Photo)
Military personnel wearing protective coveralls work to remove a vehicle connected to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury from a residential street in Gillingham, southeast England, on March 14, 2018. (AFP/ File Photo)

The UK government is planning to open a multimillion-pound facility to conduct research on chemical weapons, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson will announce on Thursday, citing threats from Russia and North Korea.

Scheduled to speak at an event hosted by Policy Exchange and Rolls Royce in Bristol, Williamson will say that the Ministry of Defense (MoD) is shelling out £48 million ($66 million) to build the facility at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in Porton Down.

The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between the UK and Russia over a recent nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter outside a shopping center in Salisbury.

Calling the attack “shocking and reckless,” Williamson will say that the new investment ensures “we maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defense."

"If we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury," Williamson is expected to say. "We know the chemical threat doesn't just come from Russia but from others.”

Following the attack on Skripal, Britain tasked the DSTL in Wiltshire with analyzing the nerve agent that was used to poison the former spy. It was the same laboratory that ultimately liked the attack to Russia.

Williamson will use what he describes as a growing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat from some governments to announce that thousands of British troops held at high-readiness will be vaccinated against anthrax.

This allows British troops to be deployed to areas where the risk of this type of attack exists.

UK's chemical weapons

Britain is known to have developed and used chemical weapons as early as the First World War. The UK Armed Forces continued to produce and experiment with such chemical agents as sarin, chlorine, phosgene, anthrax and mustard until early 1990s.

In 2014, The Guardian revealed that Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher considered restarting Britain’s chemical weapons (CW) program at a cost of up to £200 million.

The UK finally signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 but there is little official information about the country’s progress in destroying its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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