Anniston Begins Burning Chemical Weapons

Arms Control Today, September 2003 | Go to article overview
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Anniston Begins Burning Chemical Weapons


Despite vocal opposition from some members of an Alabama community, the Anniston Army Depot began burning rockets that had been filled with sarin nerve agent August 9 and started incinerating the sarin itself August 31. The action was a first step in a seven-year plan to incinerate 2,254 tons of sarin, VX, and mustard agent stored at the site.

As of early August 28, the Army had drained and destroyed 695 M-55 rockets. On August 31, the Army began burning the sarin that was drained.

The Anniston chemical weapons disposal facility was completed in 2001 and is designed to incinerate the chemical agents and related weaponry. Some members in the local community oppose incineration and want the Army to use different disposal technologies. With the facility already completed, however, the Army has decided to proceed with incineration, arguing that it would be more dangerous to continue storing the chemical agents. An initial start date of August 6 was delayed when opponents asked a court for a restraining order against the Anniston disposal facility. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the request August 8, and the Army began destruction operations the next day.

In a compromise with local opponents who have expressed concern over safety issues, however, the Army does not plan to begin full-scale destruction until early October, when a project to "over-pressurize" local schools, hospitals, and some other community facilities is slated for completion.

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