Study Finds Chemical Weapons Incineration Is Safe
Boyd, Kerry, Arms Control Today
THE INCINERATION TECHNOLOGY the United States plans to use at three new sites to destroy chemical weapons can be safe and effective, despite some safety concerns, according to a report released December 3, 2002, by the National Research Council (NRC), a branch of the National Academies. The United States is in the process of destroying its entire chemical weapons arsenal in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The NRC report was motivated by concerns in Congress that "chemical events" involving chemical warfare agents at two sites that have already begun destroying the weapons-one at the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and one near Tooele, Utah-might indicate that future facilities using similar technology and management systems would also experience such incidents. The NRC report considered a chemical event to be any unintended release or potential release of chemical agent associated with demilitarization activities.
The report's authors concluded that, despite some previous problems at the two sites, there is no evidence indicating that future facilities cannot operate safely. A 13member NRC committee concluded that "safe chemical weapons disposal operations are feasible at the new facilities scheduled to begin operating at Anniston, Alabama; Umatilla, Oregon; and Pine Bluff, Arkansas, if their management is diligent in setting and enforcing rigorous operational procedures, in providing comprehensive training, in establishing a strong safety culture encompassing all plant personnel, and in absorbing programmatic lessons learned from the first two operational facilities." All three new facilities are expected to use incineration to destroy their stockpiles and are scheduled to begin full operations sometime in 2003. …