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.
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