Destroying Chemical Weapons is Really Expensive
Even then, efforts to obliterate the armaments is worth each and every dollar. By Ben Freeman and Faris Alikhan
Isolating and destroying Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons is, finally, within reach. But of course, any complex international endeavor involves price tags—monetary and otherwise.
Estimating the dollar cost of destroying the roughly 1,000 tons of Syrian chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war is challenging. But it’s possible to come up with a ballpark estimate.
First, let’s look at what the U.S. spent destroying its chemical weapons stockpile using incineration and neutralization processes, which both seasoned chemists and Breaking Bad fans should appreciate. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Materials Agency oversaw the destruction of just over 28,364 tons of chemical weapons—nearly 90 percent of the U.S. stockpile—for an estimated cost of $28 billion. That’s about $1 billion per 1,000 tons.
The remaining 10 percent of the stockpile—3,136 tons—will be eliminated by 2023. The U.S. Army’s Chemical Weapons Alternative program, which is managing the destruction, estimates it will cost $10.6 billion, or about $3 billion per thousand tons.