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"I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them."

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Neutralization Approved for CW Destruction

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In a February 27 Record of Decision, the Department of Defense approved using a technology for destroying chemical weapons in Kentucky that is more popular with regional citizen groups than incineration, which has been used to destroy chemical weapons so far. The Army will use neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation at the Blue Grass Army Depot, where eventually the Army plans to destroy about 2 percent of its total chemical weapons stockpile.

The decision approves the technology for full-scale pilot tests at the site; if the tests are successful, the Army will use the technology to destroy the stockpile at the Blue Grass depot, located in Richmond, Kentucky. The Army is now in the process of choosing a contractor to build and operate the facility.

The Defense Department considered several other technologies: incineration, chemical neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation and gas-phase chemical reduction, and electrochemical oxidation. The department considered cost, the destruction schedule, environmental impact, community concerns, compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and other issues when making the decision.

Under the CWC, which bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction, the United States is supposed to destroy its entire stockpile by April 2007. The Army, however, is likely to miss that deadline, according to U.S. officials.