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Executive Summary For over 50 years, the United States has maintained a stockpile of chemical agents and munitions at eight military depots in the continental United States. Un- der a congressional mandate in 1985, the Army insti- tuted a program to destroy M55 chemical rockets. It extended this program in 1992 to destroy the entire chemical munitions stockpile. The chemical weapons stockpile contains two types of chemical agents: (1 ) cholinesterase-inhibiting nerve agents (GB and VX) and (2) blister agents, primarily various forms of mustard agent (H. HD, and HT). The purpose of this report is to examine the effects of leakers and other anomalies in the stored munitions on the operation of chemical agent disposal facilities. The Stockpile Committee evaluated the munitions' his- tory, reviewed and evaluated leaker detection and re- duction activities, reviewed unusual occurrences result- ing from the delivery of atypical (i.e., anomalous) munitions and containers to disposal facilities, re- viewed and evaluated the implications of atypical agent and munitions for risks to workers, and assessed pro- grammatic impacts of these atypical munitions. The report presents the Army's experience in track- iThe agent and munitions at a ninth site, Johnston Island, which is located in the Pacific Ocean about 800 miles southwest of Ha- waii, were destroyed during a decade of disposal operations that concluded in November 2000. 1 ing and handling anomalous munitions. It also de- scribes data collection and data analyses by the Army and the committee. The report also provides a fairly detailed descrip- tion of the degradation processes affecting chemical agents and (to a lesser degree) propellants in stored munitions. Stabilizers were added to the nerve agents at the time of manufacture to retard decomposition, but these stabilizers have degraded over time. The re- sulting acidic decomposition products may corrode metal containment vessels, leading to agent leakage (particularly for GB ). The decomposition mechanism is such that agent degradation may be expected to ac- celerate at elevated temperatures and over longer stor- age times. The Stockpile Committee considered the chemical stockpile as a whole, and the Anniston chemical stock- pile in particular, to determine what evidence might exist that the leaker rate is increasing with time. No statistical evidence for this was apparent. A relatively small number of munition types contain the bulk of the leakers. Most of the leakers are found among GB-filled munitions, the bulk of which are M55 rockets. The time in years to the first leak detection is different for differ- ent GB agent subtypes. Munitions filled with one GB subtype, PR-RS, appear to leak earlier in their life cycle than those filled with other GB agent subtypes. It is possible that the VX munitions are leaking within their
2 EFFECTS OF DEGRADED AGENT AND MUNITIONS ANOMALIES ON CHEMICAL STOCKPILE DISPOSAL OPERATIONS casings, but the externally detected VX leakage so far has been minimal. The discovery of anomalous munitions in the course of destroying the chemical stockpile is well docu- mented. Such munitions increase risk to the general public, the environment, and especially to workers. By their nature, they are not predictable, and in sev- eral cases they have necessitated substantial process and permit modification. The fact is that stockpile degradation and the discovery of anomalies could well continue throughout the remaining life of the stock- pile. This will call for regular testing, monitoring, and data recording in a standardized mode; improved sta- tistical analysis of better databases to discover pos- sible trends at the earliest possible time; and public comprehension of demilitarization operations, with as much information disclosure as can be permitted con- sistent with security concerns. Suitable coordination between Army personnel and emergency prepared- ness officials to mitigate the effects of any storage mishaps on surrounding communities is also war- ranted. As a whole, the effects of leakers and other anomalies can best be minimized by the earliest pos- sible destruction of all agents at all sites. Detailed findings and recommendations are pre- sented in Chapter 5.