US Destroys Last Of Its Chemical Weapons Stockpile

The United States has destroyed the last of its declared chemical weapons stockpile at a military installation in Kentucky.

us destroys last of its chemical weapons stockpile
Workers at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Ky., begin the destruction of the first rocket from a stockpile of M55 rockets with GB nerve agent, on July 6, 2022. (U.S. Army via AP)

President Joe Biden said in a White House statement that the final munition in the country’s stockpile was “safely destroyed.” The disarmament milestone brings the country “one step closer to a world free from the horrors of chemical weapons,” the president said.

The Defense Department announced that the final M55 rocket filled with sarin nerve agent was destroyed on Friday at the Blue Grass Army Depot—a U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command storage facility in Richmond, Kentucky. Sarin nerve agent, also known as GB nerve agent, is a deadly toxin. Some 51,000 such rockets had been held at the depot since the 1940s.

The final munition—more than 100,000 mustard agent and nerve agent-filled projectiles and nerve agent-filled rockets—was destroyed via “neutralization and explosive destruction technologies” at the depot, the Pentagon announced.

us destroys last of its chemical weapons stockpile
An operator cuts the metal bands on a pallet of M55 rockets containing GB nerve agent at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Ky., on July 6, 2022. (U.S. Army via AP)

Army Depot began in June 2019, according to the Pentagon. All up, more than 523 U.S. tons of chemical agents were safely destroyed there.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the latest move.

“Chemical weapons are responsible for some of the most horrific episodes of human loss,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “Though the use of these deadly agents will always be a stain on history, today our Nation has finally fulfilled our promise to rid our arsenal of this evil.”

Self-Imposed Deadline Met

The milestone meets the United States’ self-declared commitment to destroy all chemical weapons by Sept. 30, 2023.

Chemical weapons were first used in modern warfare in World War I, where they were estimated to have killed at least 100,000 people. The United States began assembling chemical weapons during World War I and continued producing them until the late 1960s.

By the end of the Cold War, the stockpile had reached over 30,000 tons, held at eight facilities in continental United States and one site on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

Congress mandated the destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile in 1986, and the efforts to eliminate the stockpiles started in 1990 on Johnston Atoll.

“While those stockpiles were under destruction, additional legislation required the Defense Department to assess and demonstrate alternative technologies to destroy chemical weapons by means other than incineration,” the Pentagon said.

“Successful implementation of alternative technologies resulted in the safe destruction of the remaining chemical weapons stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.”

us destroys last of its chemical weapons stockpile
Canisters of mustard gas, part of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, wait for destruction at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colo., on June 8, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Colorado and Kentucky sites were the last among where the nation’s chemical weapons had been stockpiled and destroyed. The other locations included facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, and Utah.

Michael Abaie, the executive officer of the Pentagon’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Program, said the facilities that were storing the chemical weapons will enter a closure phase for the next three to four years.

This includes disposal of secondary wastes, decontamination and decommissioning of facilities and equipment, disposition of property, demolition of some facilities, and close-out of contracts and environmental permits,” Mr. Abaie said in a statement. “During closure, the safety of the workforce, the public and the environment will remain the program’s top priority.”

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Authored by Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times July 9th 2023