The Syrian chemicals on their way to Ellesmere Port could have been used to create an arsenal of the most toxic weapons.
The Chronicle reveals chemicals could have been put together with others to make VX gas – more toxic than the Sarin gas thought to have killed hundreds during the Syrian civil war.
The government stressed the substances coming to Veolia’s Bridges Road incinerator are not chemical weapons and no worse than materials typically treated at the site.
On their own, the chemicals are not considered a threat and their transport and destruction will be carefully overseen.
But the Ministry of Defence said they could have been ingredients used in the production of deadly VX had they not been removed from Syria. VX is reportedly 10 times more potent than Sarin, which UN weapons inspectors believe was used in attacks in Damascus last August.
French intelligence last year stated their belief President Bashar Assad’s regime possessed “several tens of tons of VX” which it described as “the most toxic among the known chemical warfare agents.”
Both the government and Veolia say the “B-precursors” are no different to civilian chemicals dealt with at the Bridges Road plant for years.
And MoD under-secretary Phillip Dunne MP said: “The ‘B’ chemicals would become highly toxic only if mixed with an ‘A’-precursor to make V-type nerve agents.”
After being asked for clarification on what V-type nerve agents are, the MoD confirmed “in their most potent form they can become VX gas”. For the 150 tonnes of chemicals heading to Ellesmere Port to create VX they would need to be mixed with the correct A-precursors.
Those are being transported to other countries for destruction, and Public Health England has become the latest agency to reassure the public.
Responding to a query from Cheshire West and Chester council, the agency said: “In terms of the local situation we understand that the Veolia plant is permitted to dispose of these sorts of chemicals in accordance with relevant regulations.”