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Army Updates Environmental Analysis for Detonating Pueblo Chem Weapons

A new environmental analysis indicates a U.S. Army installation in Colorado would only need to destroy about 13,000 chemical warfare munitions with an explosive detonation system, the Pueblo Chieftain reported on Tuesday (see GSN, April 29, 2011).

That figure is in line with Defense Department estimates from 2011, but significantly lower than the 150,000 weapons once considered for disposal using an alternate technology to the neutralization facility being built at the Pueblo Chemical Depot.

The site holds about 780,000 munitions filled with more than 2,600 tons of mustard blister agent. Most of those armaments are to be processed through water neutralization between 2015 and 2017.

However, the mobile technology would be used for disposal of an expected 1,000 rounds that were placed in additional storage containers after leaking or being otherwise compromised during analysis. Up to another 12,000 "rejects" that have become rusted or faced other issues could also be deemed inappropriate for processing through the neutralization plant's automated disposal system.

The actual number of munitions processed through the detonation technology is likely to be notably lower, said Irene Kornelly, head of the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Commission.

The Army prepared a new environmental impact assessment on detonating some weapons after the Environmental Protection Agency dismissed a service previous finding that the system would have no notable effect.

"It's a lot better [environmental assessment] than the one we had last time. I don't think there were any surprises in it this time," Kornelly said.

The Army has not determine which of four potential detonation systems would be used.

"There will be people who say we should have this and we should have that, but we could play this game forever," she said. "We don't have time to play this game forever."

The Chemical Weapons Convention requires the United States to eliminate its stockpiles of banned warfare materials by the end of this month. Washington has acknowledged it will not meet that deadline, and instead anticipated completing demilitarization operations in 2021 (see GSN, Dec. 1, 2011; John Norton, Pueblo Chieftain, April 10).

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