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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions 1 Introduction THE CALL FOR DISPOSAL The United States has maintained a stockpile of highly toxic chemical agents and munitions for more than half a century. Three unitary1 agents are stored and disposed largely as liquids: nerve agent VX, a high-boiling point liquid that will adhere to surfaces for days or weeks; nerve agent GB (satin), a volatile liquid that rather quickly evaporates; and mustard, a blister agent that evaporates slowly. These agents are stored in a variety of munitions and standard ton chemical containers. Lethal chemical agents are extremely hazardous materials. That is why they are used in weapons. That hazard is increased when the materials are contained in explosively configured munitions—again an inherent feature of weapons. The manufacture and stockpiling of these agents and munitions and their subsequent storage were undertaken in the belief that they had value as deterrents to the use of such materials against U.S. forces. That deterrence is no longer necessary and, therefore, does not justify the continuing risk and expense of storage. Further, in an attempt to avoid the worldwide risk of someone using chemical warfare materials, this nation has entered into agreement with others to rid the world of all such materials. These reasons provide ample incentive for the disposal of U.S. chemical agents and munitions as promptly as safe procedures permit. Congress, in 1992 legislation, mandated that this shall occur before December 31, 2004 (Appendix A). 1 The term unitary distinguishes a single chemical loaded in munitions or stored as a lethal material. More recently, binary munitions have been produced in which two relatively safe chemicals are loaded in separate compartments to be mixed to form a lethal agent after the munition is fired or released. The components of binary munitions are stockpiled apart, in separate states. They are not included in the present Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program. However, under the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, they are included in the munitions that will be destroyed.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions The disposal of these materials is a controversial program, involving social and political as well as technical issues. The public's opinions range widely: from some who would do nothing on the grounds that storage has been safe enough so far, to others who would use this program as a vehicle to develop and test new technologies for the future disposal of unspecified hazardous materials. In part because of these public concerns, Congress requested the National Research Council Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (Stockpile Committee) to provide technical advice on the selection of disposal technologies. In that selection, the ''do-nothing'' extreme is not an option that has been considered. The Stockpile Committee has been asked for advice on how to dispose of the stockpile, not whether to dispose of it. At the other extreme, the committee believes that the development of generic technologies solely or primarily for future applications is not a legitimate option within this program. Chemical agents and munitions are uniquely hazardous materials. The selection of technologies for their disposal should not be compromised to meet future, less critical requirements. The Stockpile Committee has concentrated on the disposal of nerve and blister agents and munitions, with safety as its primary concern. THE CALL FOR RECOMMENDATIONS Congress, with its 1985 Public Law 99-145, initiated the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program to dispose of the unitary chemical stockpile, starting with an "expedited" effort to dispose of M55 rockets, a particularly hazardous munition. The program was expanded to treat the entire stockpile and led to the development of today's baseline system (see Chapters 2 and 5). After setting several intermediate goals and dates, Congress, with its 1992 Public Law 102-484, directed the Army to dispose of the entire unitary chemical warfare agent and munitions stockpile by December 31, 2004 (see Appendix A). That act further directed the Army to submit to Congress, not later than December 31, 1993, "a report on the potential alternatives to the use of the Army's baseline disassembly and incineration system for the disposal of lethal chemical agents and munitions." That report is to include inputs from two National Research Council (NRC) committees: (1) the Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (Stockpile Committee) and (2) the Committee on Alternative Chemical Demilitarization Technologies (Alternatives Committee). Congress requested that the Army's report include an analysis of the Alternatives Committee report (NRC, 1993a), Alternative Technologies for the Destruction of Chemical Agents and Munitions (hereafter Alternatives
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions report) and "any recommendations that the National Academy of Sciences makes to the Army regarding the report of that [Alternatives] committee, together with the Secretary's [of the Army] evaluation of those recommendations." At the time of the 1992 Congressional directive, the Alternatives Committee study was well under way and the mechanism was in place for submission of recommendations from the Stockpile Committee in this report. The Stockpile Committee has worked with the Alternative Committee's extensive report and has drawn on its own technical expertise and knowledge of the baseline system and disposal program requirements. The Stockpile Committee defined selection criteria based on programmatic needs. Alternative technologies were evaluated on the basis of these criteria and were compared to components of the baseline system. This report makes recommendations to the Army for safe, efficient, and timely disposal of the stockpile. DISPOSAL TECHNOLOGY SELECTION BACKGROUND-THE ROLE OF NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL COMMITTEES The search for the best agent and munitions disposal system has gone on for some time, with several inputs by committees of the National Research Council. Prior to 1969, disposal was mainly by land burial, open pit burning, and deep ocean dumping.2 An NRC review committee (NAS, 1969) concluded in 1969 that it should be assumed that all agents and munitions will require eventual disposal and that dumping at sea should be avoided. Therefore, a systematic study of optimal methods of disposal on appropriate military installations, involving no hazards to the general population and no pollution of the environment, should be undertaken. The reference to no hazard and no pollution is unfortunate. The stockpile is a hazard, and both storage and disposal entail risk. No activity is entirely without risk. The only way to eliminate the hazard and associated storage risk from these materials is to eliminate the materials themselves. The Army commissioned studies of different disposal technologies and tested several in the 1970s, including both incineration and chemical neutralization (Moynihan et al., 1983). In 1982 the Army selected component 2 Such dumping at sea was later banned by the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-532).
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions disassembly and incineration with associated pollution abatement systems, now known as the baseline system, as the preferred disposal system. The NRC Committee on Demilitarizing Chemical Munitions and Agents was formed in August 1983 to review both the status of the stockpile and the technologies for its disposal. That committee reviewed a range of technologies and, in its final report in 1984, endorsed incineration as an adequate technology for the safe disposal of chemical agents and munitions (NRC, 1984). It also concluded that the stockpile was well maintained and in no imminent danger, but added, "It is not possible to give assurance at this time that an increased rate of deterioration may not occur within the relatively near future." The committee and Army personnel have been and continue to be concerned about depletion of stabilizers in M55 rocket motors. This is discussed in detail in Chapter 2. Construction of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS), the first facility to bring together and integrate the elements of the baseline system, was begun in 1984. JACADS began operations using agents in 1990 with Operational Verification Testing that concluded in March 1993. The MITRE Corporation was engaged to monitor these tests (MITRE, 1991, 1992, 1993a-c), and the Stockpile Committee issued a preliminary review (NRC, 1993b) and commentary on MITRE's reports, including comments on the implications of JACADS performance for disposal facilities in the continental United States (discussed in Chapter 5). The Stockpile Committee also issued a more detailed review, containing recommendations for improvement of the baseline system (NRC, 1994b). Public concern with incineration in general prompted the Stockpile Committee to recommend a study of alternatives in March 1991. That concern led independently to the preparation, for Greenpeace International, of an informational document listing a number of potential alternative technologies, published in May of 1991 (Picardi et al., 1991). Public concern has also prompted a number of government activities, including the conduct of an independent study of alternative technology potential by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA, 1992), the conduct of a similar study by the General Accounting Office, and the congressional request for a report from the Army, initially required by December 31, 1993. From the Army report, the Congress will presumably outline future directions with regard to technology selections. The actual wording of the congressional request directs a search for an alternative that, without extending the disposal deadline (now 2004), "... is significantly safer and equally or more cost-effective than the use of the baseline disassembly and incineration process, ..." (National Defense Authorization Act, 1992). It is directed only to "low-volume" storage sites (Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Newport Army Ammunition Plant, Indiana; Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky), but development of such an
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions alternative clearly would be of interest for other sites. Taken literally, the congressional constraints on schedule, safety, and cost performance would, in view of realistic estimates of the time necessary for development and proof of alternatives, virtually eliminate from contention any alternative technology that might be developed. The Stockpile and Alternatives Committees have taken a more liberal view of these constraints. RELATED OPTIONS AND ISSUES The Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program is influenced or constrained by many nontechnical issues and concerns. The Stockpile Committee has been engaged to make recommendations for this program based primarily upon technical issues. It will do so in what it believes to be the best interests of the health and safety of the public and overall impact on the environment. However, as the committee formulates and evaluates disposal options, it must also consider related issues and concerns, which are discussed in the following sections. Health and Environmental Impacts Discharge of waste streams from disposal operations is governed by a host of federal and state regulations. Although the regulations are stated in technical terms, their formulations are not always based upon hard technical data. Thus, the regulations themselves can be a source of controversy. They sometimes change over time, often in the direction of tighter constraints as more sensitive instrumentation is developed. While the committee recognizes that some parties are concerned with the validity of current regulations, it cannot address those concerns as part of its evaluations and recommendations for alternative disposal technologies. Technologies are evaluated in this report with respect to existing regulations and reasonably anticipated trends in regulations. Schedule The schedule for disposal of the U.S. stockpile now calls for completion by 2004. This schedule is subject to change as may be dictated by congressional action or treaty developments. Although the committee favors prompt disposal of the stockpile as long as safety is not compromised, it recognizes that the completion date may change, and it assumes that completion can be delayed if there is a valid technical reason to do so.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions Transportation One option favored by many living near an agent storage facility is transport of all materials from that location for disposal at another facility. Congress has prohibited further study of transport of agent and munitions (P.L. 102-172). Independent of that prohibition, public resistance to the transport of such materials either to or through all other states effectively eliminates this option. The committee, therefore, does not consider transport of agent and munitions as an available option. Transport of properly neutralized materials, on the other hand, is at least legally possible and may present a viable option in some cases. Material can be neutralized so that it can be transported under Army control and treated elsewhere or disposed in a hazardous waste facility. The Army has neutralized GB at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado and transported the resultant reaction mass to a landfill in Utah. (That material would have required further treatment to meet today's treaty requirements for "irreversible" destruction.) More recently, decontaminated material has been transported from JACADS to landfills in California. Thus, transport of processed agent derivatives, and associated nonenergetic decontaminated materials, is considered a technically viable option by the committee. However, exercise of this transport option is subject to the important conditions that a site can be found that is willing and able to receive and process the material, and that an acceptable transport route can be found. Community Concerns One of the paramount issues is the concern of local citizens about the impacts of the demilitarization program on their communities. The Stockpile Committee has acted, and will continue to act, in what it believes to be their best interest in terms of dearly defined technical criteria. Others may disagree with the committee's conclusions or may wish to use other criteria. Those responsible for decisions on disposal strategies should consider the recommendations of local citizens as well as those of this committee. PUBLIC FORUM Media coverage, Army reporting on interactions with the public, and letters and calls to the Stockpile and Alternatives Committees make it obvious that the public has many concerns about the stockpile and the plans for its disposal. As part of its deliberations, the Stockpile Committee wanted an
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions opportunity to discuss those concerns directly with the interested parties. One step to enhance the committee's understanding was to hold a public forum. On June 30, 1993 an alternative technologies forum was held in the main building of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The forum represented a major undertaking by the Alternatives and Stockpile Committees to obtain public input and comment. The morning session summarized and received comment on the Alternatives report. The afternoon was devoted to explaining the Stockpile Committee's plans and processes for producing its final report for the Army. Table 1-1 presents a list of technology evaluation considerations discussed at the forum and used in the evaluations summarized in Chapter 6. Prior to the forum, public concerns reaching the committee were summarized, as shown in Table 1-2. Based on the material from Tables 1-1 and 1-2, the public commented on and suggested revisions in some of the committee's plans. Background material for the forum and the list of invitees are provided in Appendix B of this report. The Stockpile Committee's desire to obtain detailed insight into the public's views and concerns about the chemical demilitarization program is consistent with, but predates, the passage of Public Law 102-484 (Sec. 173) of October 1992. In that law, Congress specifically directed the Army to consider appropriate concerns arising from meetings with the Chemical Demilitarization Advisory Citizen's Commissions, which were to be established in each state having a stockpile storage site and in two bordering states (P.L. 102-484, Sec. 173). Even prior to that law, the Army had been briefing the Stockpile Committee on a regular basis with regard to citizens' concerns. The completion of the Alternatives report provided the Stockpile Committee with an opportune point in its deliberations to seek out and to consider the public's reactions and concerns about the disposal program. Many of these public concerns are reflected in the specific considerations that the Stockpile Committee used for technology selection (see Chapter 4). Five specific types of considerations that the public addressed in the forum axe important to discuss here. Human Impacts First, the major issue that emerged concerned the safety of the unitary chemical stockpile and of the technologies being considered for its disposal. One of the concerns was whether enough information was available to assess all potential health effects from short-term or long-term exposure to the agents and their destruction by-products. This concern went beyond the potential for immediate fatalities, to include cancer, nerve damage, genetic effects, etc.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions TABLE 1-1 Presentation by Dr. Carl R. Peterson during the June 30, 1993, Public Forum Technology Evaluation Considerations—Safety, Environment, Performance Capability to Treat Feed Materials ▪ Agent (GB/VX/HD) (pure/impure/gelled) ▪ Energetics ▪ Metal parts ▪ Dunnage ▪ Decontamination fluid Process Characteristics ▪ Development status (time to proof) ▪ Complexity ▪ Durability of equipment (corrosion, etc.) ▪ Operational reliability ▪ Controllability (including rapid shutdown, recovery) ▪ In-process inventory Waste Streams ▪ Quantity (gas, liquid, solid) ▪ Hazard potential (short and long term) ▪ Monitoring ease Treaty/Legislative Matters ▪ Degree of destruction (irreversibility) ▪ Schedule compliance Facility Deactivation Ease Cost ▪ Research and development ▪ Construction ▪ Operations The human impacts issue was expressed in several ways by members of the public, including concern about whether all of the potentially relevant alternative technologies had been or would be adequately examined. For example, comments about storage and about the baseline system dealt with both accidental and routine airborne releases and the perception of their potential short-term and long-term risks to the public. The issue of safety also
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions TABLE 1-2 Prior Public Concerns About the Disposal Program Health and Safety ▪ Destruction effectiveness ▪ Workers ▪ Community Risk of catastrophe Long tern health effects Environmental Impact Socioeconomic Issues Process for Public Input to Decision Making ▪ Mechanics ▪ Schedule Other ▪ Credibility and capability of institutions ▪ Future use ▪ Treaty compliance ▪ Cost ▪ Schedule was the basis for lengthy discussion of the potential for detoxifying chemical munitions (using chemical neutralization) and then finishing their destruction for treaty compliance at another site. External Driving Factors A second set of public concerns was related to anxieties that factors external to scientific and technological considerations might drive decisions about disposal technology and the timing of implementation. A persistent concern was that mandated treaty compliance might overshadow local or even national issues. People were concerned that rising costs might lead to shortcuts or less emphasis on safety, and about the increasing congressional pressure on the Army. They also expressed concern that such a large investment would not be dismantled as mandated once a site's chemical agent and munitions stockpile had been disposed, but that the facility would continue to be used for destruction of hazardous wastes from elsewhere. The public perceived all of these external factors as having the potential to compromise safety considerations.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions Management Capabilities A third set of issues raised in the public forum was related to the Army's ability to implement its Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program. Several comments called into question the management efficacy and capacity of those running the program at the various sites. Potential or perceived shortcomings in the Army's ability to manage the recommended solutions have the potential to undercut confidence in program decisions. The overriding anxiety is that mismanagement will result in threats to the safety of the community or of workers at the site. Site-Specific Impacts The fourth set of public concerns is that the Army might overlook important differences that should or could lead to different or alternative recommendations for some of the communities. For example, several comments concerned the differences in the nature of the agents and munitions stored at different sites. There may also be different risks from external sources or differing concerns such as nearby population, vulnerable water supply, croplands, etc. These differences might lend themselves to alternative methods of destruction. Hence, there was a strong expression of the importance of both undertaking site-specific risk analyses and examining site-specific solutions. These communities, it was suggested, not only have different types of agents, munitions, and external risks, but also have different experiences in working with the Army. These factors affect their willingness to accept the use of certain potential technologies. Ecological Impacts The fifth area of concern was the long-term impacts on the environment. Comments concerned the potential impact on specific ecological niches due to either short-term or long-term chemical exposures from both air emissions and wastewater effluents. People also expressed concern about the adequacy of federal environmental standards, as well as their enforcement, and their relationship to more rigorous state regulations. Some of these comments related to both safety and management concerns. Perhaps it is best to consider this set of five concerns, not as separate issues, but as strongly interrelated concerns. Each involves the overall issue of safety (especially when there are visual reminders that destruction of the munitions is occurring). Management efficacy and capacity could affect safety
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions as they relate to meeting complex environmental regulations and safely operating technologies that will be implemented. Cost and time constraints are perceived as having the potential to inhibit adequate attention to safety issues. These all manifest themselves in the concern that insufficient consideration will be given to the local differences that exist in both the chemical stockpiles and the proximity of communities to disposal facilities. The public is concerned that potentially safer solutions will not be given adequate attention and that communities will lack voice in the decision about how the stockpile in their own area is to be managed. The committee recognizes the depth of feeling some people hold, and understands how important specific concerns are to various individuals and groups. Underlying much of the discussion and the expressed concern appears to be a dissatisfaction with the relationship between the Army and the public in the way the program has proceeded to date. There are clear indications that the public has tired of an acquiescent role in the program, and wishes greater attention be paid to its concerns and views. The public forum represented the committee's effort to seek out these concerns so that its recommendations might better reflect and address the public's interests and apprehensions. Yet, it is only the responsible agency, the Army, that can establish a meaningful and efficacious relationship with the public. The committee's report should not be viewed as a decision, but only as a series of recommendations to the Army and ultimately the Congress. It is the responsibility of the Army to successfully implement subsequent decisions and the program. The forum indicated that the public is concerned not only with the safety of the technologies but also with the development of a meaningful public role in these decisions. This can hopefully lead to a better understanding of the technical issues involved and a greater trust in program management as a basis of support for future problem solving. To the extent feasible, the committee has considered these public concerns. When appropriate, it has taken steps to emphasize these issues in its scientific and technically rooted recommendations. Specifically, the committee has reflected these public concerns in its choice of selection criteria for alternative technologies. The list of invitees in Appendix B reflects the committee's attempt to ensure wide representation of potentially different viewpoints across various segments of the public. The written and verbal comments largely reinforced what had been gleaned from the media, from the Army's reporting on its contacts with the public, and from calls and letters directly to the committees. At the same time, the Stockpile Committee recognizes that these diverse information sources make it difficult to gauge the strength of specific concerns, even though they stress the variety among those concerns. They also illustrate that some groups support moving ahead with the baseline system, whereas others are vehemently opposed to it.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions SCHEDULES Despite potential flexibility in disposal program completion dates, the committee notes that disposal of the chemical agent and munitions stockpile will be a lengthy process and that time is of some importance in terms of risk to the public. Table 1-3 presents the Army's scheduled program, as of December 1993, giving a perhaps optimistic estimate of the time necessary to design, obtain necessary permits, construct, and test (systemization) each facility. This schedule includes time allotted for the completion of site-specific risk analyses (described in more detail in Chapter 4) at all sites. Slippage in the schedule has already occurred, and more may be expected. Apart from political deadlines, time is important in at least two ways. It is an economic issue: present stockpile maintenance costs are about $100 million per year. It is a safety issue for two reasons: (1) delays extend the period of storage and thereby increase the risk to the community from the stockpile; and (2) continuing deterioration of the materials adds to both the storage risk and the risks associated with stockpile disposal. Thus, although the committee does not feel bound by political deadlines that may be arbitrary and subject to change, there is every technical reason to expedite the disposal program to the extent that safe disposal practices permit.
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Recommendations for the Disposal of Chemical Agents and Munitions TABLE 1-3 Schedule for the Construction and Operation of Chemical Stockpile Disposal Facilities (December 1993) Installation Begin Constructiona Begin Systemizationb Begin Operations Johnston Atoll (JACADS) Nov. 1985 Aug. 1988 July 1990-Nov. 1996 Tooele Army Depot (TEAD) Sept. 1989 Aug. 1993 Feb. 1995-May 2000 Anniston Army Depot Aug. 1994 June 1997 Dec. 1998-Jan 2002 Umatilla Depot Activity Mar. 1995 Jan. 1998 July 1999-Feb. 2002 Pine Bluff Arsenal July 1995 Mar. 1998 Sep. 1999-May 2002 Pueblo Depot Activity Jan. 1996 Nov. 1998 May 2000-Jan. 2002 Blue Grass Army Depot Jan. 1997 Nov. 1999 May 2001-Oct. 2002 Aberdeen Proving Ground Jan. 1998 June 2000 June 2001-June 2002 Newport Army Ammunition Plant Jan. 1999 June 2001 June 2002-Apr. 2003 a Procurement of selected equipment could precede construction up to approximately one year. b Testing the facility before operations begin. SOURCE: Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization, U.S. Army, Aberdeen, MD.
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