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Large vessel marks progress for chemical weapons destruction

By: Gabriel Roxas Email
By: Gabriel Roxas Email

The journey lasted more than a month and covered 1800 miles, but Monday night a 100-ton vessel has reached its new home. The vessel left Idaho Falls, Idaho in mid-January. It arrived at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond Monday night.

After a long and careful journey, the 50-feet tall, nitrogen storage vessel turned the corner toward its final destination at the Blue Grass Army Depot. Eventually it will play a critical role in destroying the chemical weapons stockpiled there. "Once we can get that installed and tested," Jeffrey Brubaker, Site Project Manager of the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant said, "That will be a significant progress moving forward."

Over the last few years a lot of work has gone into construction of the Pilot Plant at the depot. President Obama's budget request to Congress included an increase in money to build the plant. "It represents a significant increase," Brubaker said, "$115 million has been requested for construction. That keeps us moving either on schedule or potentially ahead of schedule."

That's welcome news for those around the world eager to see the United States meet its obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. Depot officials say construction of the facility will take another two to three years to complete followed by a commissioning phase to test the equipment and train the workforce before work can begin to destroy the 523 tons of nerve agent and mustard agent. "I think 2021 is within the window that we would look to complete destruction," Brubaker said.

Despite the long road ahead, project managers hope this step will convince those watching that the work is moving forward. "Part of what we did today I think is evidence that whenever possible, we're trying to move things sooner rather than later," Brubaker said.

More than 180 countries have agreed to the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The two largest stockpiles that remain to be destroyed are in the United States and Russia.

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