Deseret Chemical Depot Destroys Millionth Munition

Deseret Chemical Depot Destroys Millionth Munition

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STOCKTON, Utah (AP) -- The Deseret Chemical Depot announced Wednesday that it has destroyed its one millionth munition, further whittling what was once nearly half of the nation's chemical weapon stockpile and edging closer to a scheduled completion date of 2008.

Gov. Jon Huntsman and Gen. Benjamin Griffin were on hand for Wednesday's ceremony at the facility, about 45 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Huntsman called the destruction of the chemical weapons "a critically important national security measure."

The goal is to meet the 2012 Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty deadline for destroying chemical weapons, except for small amounts of munitions kept for testing purposes.

The destruction campaign started Aug. 22, 1996, when the Army's $1 billion incinerator began burning the depot's 13,616 tons of chemical warfare agents -- weapons the U.S. military has never used in combat.

The VX agent campaign began in March 2003 and is scheduled to reach completion this spring. Mustard destruction operations are scheduled to begin early next year.

Nerve gas and mustard, a blistering agent, also are stockpiled at seven other depots in the United States: Aberdeen, Md; Anniston, Ala., Newport, Ind.; Pine Bluff, Ark; Pueblo, Colo.; Richmond, Ky., and Umatilla, Ore.

But the Utah facility is the largest. No other facility will reach 12 percent destruction. The Utah site in Tooele County also is the largest in the world. The second largest in Russia has about 20 percent of the chemical agents from the former Soviet Union.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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