Global Security Newswire / Nuclear Threat Initiative – 2010-08-16 23:32:39
Leaking Sarin Rocket Discovered
At Kentucky Depot
(August 12, 20100 — The US Army said Tuesday a leaking sarin nerve agent-filled rocket had been discovered during inspections of chemical weapons storage structures at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky (see GSN, June 3).
“The low-level agent vapor was confined to the interior of the [shipping and firing] tube and no agent vapor was detected within the igloo atmosphere,” according to a press release. “The rocket, enclosed in the shipping and firing tube, will be overpacked in a leakproof container. It will then be moved to another igloo containing overpacked [sarin] munitions as soon as possible.”
The depot stores 523 tons of mustard blister agent and sarin and VX nerve agents. Chemical disarmament work at the site is projected to end in 2021 (US Army Chemical Materials Agency release, August 10).
Kentucky Chemical Weapons Disposal
Work Stays on Schedule
(June 3, 2010) — A US lawmaker last week successfully removed language from legislation that could have pushed back the beginning of chemical weapons disposal at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky by as much as two years, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, May 7).
An initial version of the House of Representatives 2011 defense authorization bill contained a measure that would have drastically altered the terms of a contract with the firm constructing a neutralization facility that would be used to eradicate chemical warfare materials housed at Blue Grass.
The company, Bechtel-Parsons Bluegrass, would have been obligated to pay the costs of a variety of unanticipated expenses at one fixed price. Under the terms of the present contract, the firm can be paid back by the government for moderate contingencies when they surpass cost projections.
An amendment to the bill by Representative Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) removed the measure.
“We’ve been dealing with delay after delay for decades, and it is time to stop the setbacks and broken promises,” Chandler said in a statement.
It was not clear with whom the language had originated, AP reported. Altering the contract could have led to a suspension of work at the site or even driven the company to abandon the project, said Craig Williams, head of the Kentucky-based Chemical Weapons Working Group. Company officials did not provide a comment on the matter.
“For some reason, it seems to be the whipping boy of some people’s agendas,” Williams said of Blue Grass. “Previously we’ve had all sorts of problems with funding requests coming to Congress from the Pentagon.”
The Obama administration also “strongly” objected to the proposed wording, writing in an accompanying document to the bill that “pursuit of a fixed price contract at this time would result in protracted negotiations and substantial delays in completing construction.”
Blue Grass stores 523 tons of mustard blister agent and the nerve agents sarin and VX.
Chemical disposal operations at the depot are projected to be completed in 2021. A proposed five-year spending request from the Obama administration would provide $1.3 billion to fund disarmament work in Kentucky (Jeffrey McMurray, Associated Press/State Journal, June 2).
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