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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions
disposal program and upon the report of the Committee on Alternative Chemical Demilitarization Technologies (Alternatives Committee) in the preparation of these recommendations. This report compares alternatives to the baseline system and makes recommendations for the best approach to stockpile disposal. The Office of Technology Assessment has investigated the subject, and the General Accounting Office is also assessing alternatives.
In deriving its recommendations, the Stockpile Committee has been concerned primarily with the technical aspects of safe disposal operations. However, the committee recognizes that other issues will influence the selection of disposal technologies, not least of which are the concerns of citizens who might be affected by these operations. There is concern for the environment as well as for both long- and short-term health risks related to release of agent and other pollutants, either accidental or from routine storage and disposal operations. There is also a desire for more effective participation in program planning and decision processes. To learn more of these concerns, the Stockpile Committee and the Alternatives Committee held a public forum in June 1993 to listen to the public and to discuss the committee's criteria for evaluating alternative technologies.
This report is arranged to progress from the general to the specific, from historic information to recommendations for future operations. The findings and recommendations of the report are included in this Executive Summary.
THE UNITARY CHEMICAL AGENT AND MUNITIONS STOCKPILE
There are two basic types of chemical agents in the unitary stockpile: nerve (GB, VX) and blister (mustard) agents. These are contained in a variety of bulk containers and munitions. Munitions such as M55 rockets and various projectiles have associated explosives and propellants (so-called energetics) that also must be disposed of. The stockpile is stored at eight continental U.S. sites and at Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, about 700 miles southwest of Hawaii. Each site differs in the amount and types of agents, energetic materials, and associated metal containers stored there.
The condition of the stockpile is a factor in the decision to eliminate these materials and in how disposal will be accomplished. Of particular concern are the declining levels of stabilizer in M55 rocket propellants that may eventually lead to autoignition of the propellant. This hazard was addressed in the 1984 NRC study, as well as in a number of studies by the Army and its contractors beginning in 1985. Of two recent studies, one estimates that critical propellant stabilizer levels may be reached in 2019, whereas a second estimates 2002. Examination of these reports indicates considerable uncertainty in all analyses. The Stockpile Committee believes