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Getting Rid Of Chemical Weapons

Defense Department revises schedules and estimates of cost to complete the task

by Glenn Hess
April 30, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 18

Credit: Army Chemical Materials Agency
The chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Army Depot will have to wait a bit longer to be destroyed.
This photo shows Toxic Chemical Workers performing a meticulous inspection of chemical weapons. Monitoring the chemical weapons stockpile frequently ensures the safety of the workers, environment, and community.
Credit: Army Chemical Materials Agency
The chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Army Depot will have to wait a bit longer to be destroyed.

The Department of Defense says it will cost about $2.6 billion more and take two years more than previously estimated to completely eliminate the nation’s remaining stockpile of obsolete chemical weapons.

The total projected cost for destruction programs at the last two military installations where chemical warfare materials are stored is now $10.6 billion.

The Pentagon says the weapons held at the Blue Grass Army Depot, in Madison County, Ky., likely will not be destroyed until 2023, rather than by 2021. The completion date for final destruction of the stockpile at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, in Pueblo County, Colo., has also been revised from 2017 to 2019.

The new estimates include a “more conservative and realistic assessment” of potential operational problems that might occur, says Conrad F. Whyne, executive officer of the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program.

“Estimating costs and schedules for large, complex construction projects, which will use new processes and handle aging and dangerous materials and are subject to comprehensive regulation, involves a great deal of uncertainty, which we’ve now taken into account,” Whyne says.

ACWA is tasked with destroying about 2,600 tons of mustard agent stored at the Colorado depot and 523 tons of blister and nerve agents held at the facility in Kentucky. Those weapons account for the last 10% of the U.S. chemical arsenal.

Stockpiles have already been destroyed at installations in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, Utah, and the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.


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