LAST MONTH the Canadian government announced that it had reached agreement with the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, which the US government describes as a public charity, to help fund construction of a 17·7 km railway to carry chemical weapons in central Russia.

The line will link a weapons store near Planovy with a destruction plant at Shchuchye in Kurgan Oblast being funded mainly by the USA under the Nunn-Lugar Co-operative Threat Reduction programme. The project is being managed by the United Kingdom as part of its Russian Assistance programme, and Canada will commit up to C$25m towards the cost of the railway as part of a C$1bn pledge to the Group of Eight’s Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons & Materials of Mass Destruction.

The line is expected to carry 1·9 million chemical munitions that contain sarin, somal and other nerve agents. Canada’s Project Manager Trevor Smith said after the announcement that ’you can’t hijack a train’, whereas ’you can load chemical munitions on to a truck and they could be taken down another road to God knows where. From a security standpoint, it’s the only way to go.’