Vast stockpiles of chemical weapons are being destroyed at a state of the art decommissioning plant in Russia.The facility in the Ural Mountains was officially opened in a ceremony attended by scientists and officials from Russia, the US, the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Five thousand, five hundred tonnes of biological weapons including the nerve gases VX and Sarin will be disposed of. Operator, Svetlana Putaikhina said: “The first step is to drill through the ammunition. Then the chemicals have to be removed. Finally they have to be neutralized.” Two million chemical weapons will have been rendered harmless by 2012. The neutralised residue will be stored in concrete- lined underground bunkers, above the groundwater level. Russia and its Cold War era foe the United States held more than 71,000 metric tonnes of deadly chemical agents in 1997, more than 90 per cent of the world’s total stockpiles. Russia’s arsenal alone stood at 40,000 tonnes. Diplomats say the opening of the plant, partly funded by America, is an important symbol of US-Russian cooperation.