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Umatilla Depot Declared Free of Chem Weapons

An international arms control organization has formally determined that all chemical weapons stored at a military depot in Oregon have been eliminated, the U.S. Army announced on Tuesday (see GSN, Oct. 26).

The Umatilla Chemical Depot in October concluded a seven-year project to destroy 220,604 containers and weapons filled with 3,717 tons of blister and nerve agents that had been in storage for decades.

The site on Dec. 5 and 6 underwent an inspection by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague, Netherlands-based agency that monitors compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The accord prohibits the United States and all other member nations from developing, producing, stockpiling and using toxic warfare materials such as mustard gas and the nerve agents VX and sarin.

The OPCW review verified that there were no longer any chemical weapons held at the site, officially ending its tenure as a stockpile and disposal facility under the convention, the Army Chemical Materials Agency said in a press release.

“This is another significant milestone achieved assuring the safety of future generations," Lt. Col. Kris Perkins, Army commander at the depot, said in provided comments.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has monitored the depot's incineration plant since disposal operations were initiated in May 2004.

“The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility has hosted hundreds of OPCW inspectors representing the 188 member nations since on-site destruction verification activities began in May 2004,” Gary Anderson, UMCDF site project manager, said in the press release. “It is an honor to have been able to assist these individuals in their mission to verify the global reduction of chemical weapons.”

The Chemical Materials Agency expects in January to complete chemical demilitarization activities at its last disposal plant, at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah (see GSN, Dec. 20). In total, the Army branch is responsible for destroying 90 percent of the declared U.S. chemical stockpile.

Another service office, the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program, is building facilities in Colorado and Kentucky that would finish off the final 10 percent. It expects to complete work by 2021.

The Chemical Weapons Convention requires member nations to complete disposal operations by April 29, 2012. Member nations recently determined that states expected to miss that deadline -- Libya, Russia and the United States -- would not be penalized. Instead, they are being placed under a program of heightened reporting and transparency (see GSN, Dec. 1; U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency release, Dec. 20).


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