Chemical Weapons:

Issues Involving Destruction Technologies

T-NSIAD-94-159: Published: Apr 26, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1994.

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GAO discussed: (1) alternative technologies for destroying chemical weapons; (2) the operational safety of the Army's chemical weapons incineration facility; and (3) the cryofracture process for destroying chemical munitions. GAO noted that: (1) the alternative technologies it reviewed would require at least 13 years to reach maturity; (2) a concurrent development approach to some of the technologies would reduce the time to maturity but would involve much greater cost and performance risks; (3) cost estimates for alternative technologies are not reliable because the technologies are in the initial stages of research and development; (4) none of the alternative technologies would be as thorough as baseline incineration, the technology the Army presently uses; (5) the Army's Johnston Atoll facility meets the Environmental Protection Agency's safety standards; (6) in March 1994, the Johnston Atoll facility accidentally released 12 milligrams of a nerve agent, but there were no injuries and the incident is still under investigation; and (7) while the Army is testing cryofracture, it would be significantly more expensive than baseline incineration, and the Army has not proved its efficacy.

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