Wednesday, January 18, 2012

US Army burns off final chemical weapons in Utah

Fox News

The U.S. Army has destroyed about 90 percent of its aging chemical weapons after it wraps up work this week in Utah, where it has kept its largest stockpile -- a witches' brew of toxins, blister and blood agents that accumulated through the Cold War.

The Army's Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah's west desert burned its last hard weapons in a 1,500-degree furnace on Wednesday -- projectiles that contained mustard agent, which can produce painful skin blisters. The last tray of 23 projectiles came out of a furnace at 2:11 p.m. after baking for two hours, a process that rendered the mustard agent harmless.

The depot -- which at its peak held some 13,600 tons of chemical agents, making it the world's largest -- expects to complete the job by the weekend when it incinerates bulk supplies of Lewisite, a powerful skin, eye and lung irritant.

"It gives me great joy and satisfaction to be done," said Ted Ryba, the Army's project manager at the depot, after the last of the mustard agent projectiles were seen emerging from the furnace on a conveyor belt.

The U.S. is part of an international treaty to rid the world of chemical weapons, a campaign taking place with spotty success around the globe. The goal was supposed to be accomplished by April 29 but will take years longer.

"Clearly, it's still a tremendous example of what the world can do," said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group in Berea, Ky., an advocate for safe disposal. "You've got 188 of 194 countries on the planet signing the treaty. It's an impressive effort, a great step forward for the safety of the world."

The U.S. has acknowledged it will take as long as 2021 to finish destroying the final 10 percent of its chemical weapons at depots in Pueblo, Colo., and Richmond, Ky. Russia is farther behind in its effort, having destroyed only about 48 percent of a large cache of chemical weapons, according to the Organisation of for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands...[Full Article]

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