The destruction of Madison County’s stockpile of chemical weapons was scheduled to start next year, but officials said Thursday that unexpected costs at a Richmond plant and at a sister plant in Colorado have changed those plans.
The destruction of 15,000 projectiles containing mustard or blister agent was projected to start in mid- to late 2017. But $55 million in construction costs, including the $15 million replacement of deficient welds at the Richmond destruction plant, will probably mean the blister agent won’t be destroyed until a later date.
In addition to the costs of fixing the welds, there has been in $40 million in unexpected costs, said Jeff Brubaker, site project manager for the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant.
The Pueblo, Colo., plant, which began destroying chemical weapons in September, also has had unexpected costs, including a roof replacement. The Richmond and Colorado plants are financed through the same U.S. Department of Defense program.
Blister agent in Madison County won’t be destroyed in the main plant but in a separate, smaller building behind the plant.
The blister-agent projectiles will be destroyed in a steel chamber that will electronically heat them until they explode.
Munitions containing nerve agents GB and VX will be destroyed in the main plant.
Under the original schedule, blister agent munitions were to be destroyed before the nerve agent weapons. But that could now change. Brubaker said the Defense Department will soon make a decision on priorities.
The blister agent has been stored at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County since the 1940s.