Madison County

U.S. won't be sanctioned for missing chemical weapons destruction deadline

The United States will not be sanctioned or penalized for missing a deadline for destruction of its chemical weapons, including those in Madison County, says the executive director of a Berea-based citizens group.

Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group said the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons voted 101-1 to approve a measure that will not penalize the U.S. for missing an April 29, 2012 deadline for destruction of its nerve and blister agents. (Iran was the lone "no" vote.)

"By allowing continued disposal without placing economic sanctions on the U.S. is a welcome development," Williams said in a news release.

Williams attended the Nov. 28-30 conference at The Hague, Netherlands, and gave a presentation on the progress of the pilot plant under construction in Madison County that will destroy chemical weapons stored at Blue Grass Army Depot.

"Everyone felt it would be good for someone who is not politically involved or representative of a government to give a first-person assessment of things," Williams said in an interview. "It just helped solidify the position of our country that we are committed to doing this, and just because we missed a deadline doesn't mean that we intend to not fulfill our ultimate requirement, which is get rid of these weapons."

The U.S., Russia and Libya had acknowledged that they would not be able to meet the 2012 deadline. So negotiations had been underway to determine what actions the OPCW might take.

Construction of the pilot plant in Madison County is more than 40 percent complete. But the plant won't be finished until 2016 and, according to current time lines, destruction of the weapons won't be finished until 2021 — nearly a decade past the deadline imposed by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty.

The declaration approved last week calls for the OPCW's executive council to meet immediately after the deadline has passed next year. At that session, the panel will receive a briefing from its director general regarding the amount of chemical weapons that have been destroyed and those that remain in the three nations.

Each of those nations would be required to deliver a "detailed plan for the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons, which are to be destroyed in the shortest time possible," the declaration states.

The plans must offer specific dates by which chemical weapons disposal operations are expected to be completed. The countries must then take necessary measures to meet those schedules.

The countries must also present specifics on the types and amounts of warfare agents to be destroyed each year for all operating and planned disposal plants.

The destruction of chemical weapons was completed this year in Anniston, Ala., and Umatilla, Ore. Stockpiles have already been destroyed in Arkansas, Maryland and Indiana, and the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

But Tooele, Utah won't be finished until 2012, and Pueblo, Colo. won't be done until 2017. Blue Grass Army Depot will be the last site in the United States to destroy its stockpile.