Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Quorum lacking in vote to dispose of weapons gases

By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Ky. — Lacking a quorum, a citizens group will have to wait to vote on a proposal to recommend one of three methods the Pentagon should use to destroy chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Army Depot.

The Kentucky Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Commission met Monday night, but only four of the nine committee members were present, and five are needed for a vote.

Commission member James Robert Miller said he would recommend technology presented by General Atomics of San Diego as the one to destroy 523 tons of nerve and mustard gas, believing it is the safest and best-tested of three technologies under consideration.

The commission will have to vote before its co-chairmen, Worley Johnson and Doug Hindman, go before the Defense Acquisition Board on Oct. 22 in Washington to recommend one of the three methods. They are also to go before a Nov. 5 meeting of Pentagon generals.

By Nov. 23, a recommendation will be forwarded to an assistant secretary of the Army, who would make a final decision in January, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Miller's motion came after a presentation by Robert Beaudet, who chaired the committee that wrote a National Research Council report that said two-stage neutralization is a “mature, safe and effective” method of destroying the chemicals.

That report, released Sept. 26, said any of three methods are capable of destroying chemical weapons, explosives and propellants.

Two technologies — one proposed by General Atomics and another by ELI Eco Logic Inc. of Rockwood, Ontario — use hydrolysis, which destroys chemicals by using water or a caustic solution. Both designs also use supercritical water oxidation, a pressure-cooker method that decomposes substances at high temperatures and pressures.

A third technology — proposed by AEA Technologies of Pittsburgh — uses an electrochemical method in which the chemical agent is oxidized and destroyed by highly reactive silver ions.

Mr. Beaudet said his committee did not recommend one technology over another because it did not consider cost or how long each would take to destroy the agents.

Mr. Johnson said he couldn't predict how other members would respond to Mr. Miller's motion. Mr. Johnson said he would like to hear from AEA Technologies before a vote.

The Citizens Advisory Commission voted in June to remove incineration as one of the options.


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