The United States has completed destruction of chemical weapons agents at Newport Chemical Depot in Newport, Ind. The milestone, announced by the Army Chemical Materials Agency Aug. 11, means that destruction has been completed at three of the seven sites that had housed such agents in 1997 when the United States joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The treaty calls for the elimination of all chemical weapons stocks by 2012, but neither the United States nor Russia are expected to meet that deadline.
The Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility was specifically built to dispose of the VX in storage there, which was the only chemical agent on site. The Newport facility housed 1,269 tons of VX in 1,600 steel containers but no munitions. The nerve agent had been stored on the site in steel containers for nearly 40 years when destruction began in 2005.
Destruction was performed using caustic neutralization technology, which involves mixing the VX with heated sodium hydroxide and water. Now that the chemical destruction has been completed, the facility will be closed.
Destruction has also been completed at Johnston Atoll, Hawaii, and Aberdeen, Md. Several other sites around the country currently maintain an inventory of VX, including Blue Grass, Ky.; Pine Bluff, Ark. (M23 VX landmines); Tooele, Utah; and Umatilla, Ore.
In recent years, the United States has stepped up chemical agent destruction, but officials have said they will miss the 2012 deadline. The Department of Defense now estimates that the remaining chemical stockpile, less than one-half of the original declared amount, can likely be destroyed by 2023. The final facility scheduled to complete chemical agent destruction is Blue Grass, where construction of the disposal facility began in October 2006. This facility plans to begin chemical agent disposal in 2017, with completion projected for 2023.
At the last CWC review conference, several states expressed concern over the pace of stockpile destruction in Russia and the United States. (See ACT, May 2008.)