The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons praised efforts to eventually destroy chemical weapons in Madison County.
"I think it's clear to anyone that the disposal project here is well on its way towards achieving its objective of safely disposing of its stocks of weapons," Ambassador Robert P. Mikulak said in a Tuesday night speech at the Arlington Club in Richmond. His remarks were reported in a news release from the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a citizens group that monitors the sites where chemical weapons are stored.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, Netherlands, is the organization that conducts international inspections of chemical weapons. Before the speech, Mikulak toured the pilot plant that eventually will destroy the chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Army Depot. The plant south of Richmond is more than 40 percent complete.
"Having toured the site and met with elected officials and citizens groups, I can return to The Hague with the utmost confidence regarding the U.S. effort to destroy all the nation's chemical weapons," Mikulak said.
The chemical weapons are stored on 250 acres of the 15,000-acre depot. Blue Grass has only 2 percent of the nation's original chemical stockpile, the smallest amount of the nine storage sites.
Stockpiles have been destroyed in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Oregon and Indiana, and in the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. In Utah, destruction of stockpiles will be completed in 2012, and in Colorado, destruction won't be finished until 2017.
Madison County will be the last site to destroy its stockpile. Destruction is scheduled to start in 2018 and finish in 2021, according to current timetables. The total "life cycle" cost of the pilot plant — from design to the closing of operations after 2021 — will be more than $4 billion.
A number of dignitaries from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are scheduled to visit Blue Grass Army Depot in 2013, Mikulak said.
The last international inspection of the depot was in June, when five inspectors from Slovakia, Russia, the Netherlands, Mongolia and China conducted an inventory of the chemical weapons stored there to verify compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.