Updated: 10/06/09 : 11:35:23
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Russia will destroy 6,000 tons of nerve gas

The threat of the Cold War has thawed, but the weapons that made the West so nervous still exist.

Russia has the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the world. Yet after years of complications it is finally being destroyed.

A new facility - Shchuchye in Siberia - has finally started neutralising nearly 6,000 tons of nerve agents.

Young girls in national dress giggle and wait for their cue to take part in the opening ceremony.

The thick barbed wire fence serves as a reminder of how dangerous these chemicals are. A single drop of what is held here could kill an individual - a single shell could kill thousands.

In the control room, workers closely monitor the disposal process which takes place in a different building to which few have access.

This site accounts for only 14% of Russia's nuclear arsenal but it is considered crucial because of its proximity to Afghanistan.

Chemical weapons can be seen as a far more potent terrorist threat than nuclear ones. They are easier to steal and easier to deploy.

Seventeen years ago, stealing these weapons would have been far easier than it is now.

We have been told that we will not gain access to the remote storage site - it is something the authorities clearly do not want us to see.

In the early 90s, a lone guard manned a single gate. The warehouses themselves were locked with rusty bicycle chains.

Now, as soon as we approach the first impenetrable gate of many, we are quickly turned away.

US Senator Richard Lugar started this disposal programme in 1992 when he saw thousands of loosely guarded shells in what resembled a wine cellar. He was able to get one of the shells in a suitcase.

Left: A suitcase-sized weapon

He said, "It illustrates the dilemma: any one of these would create more casualties in terms of death than occurred during the 9/11 attack on New York.

"You have two million of these here. That is the urgency and the drama of how important this is."

Next on the US agenda is the nuclear issue - Russia has more than 4,000 nuclear warheads. Talks are in progress on how to reduce both sides' stockpiles.

After the complicated process of draining the shells of deadly nerve agents, we witness the defunct metal being spat out into a skip. The hope is that nuclear munitions can follow a similar path.