Kentucky chemical weapons disposal program nearly done as US eliminates final stockpiles

Jun 7, 2023, 11:05 AM | Updated: 11:32 am

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky facility built to dispose of deadly Cold War-era chemical weapons is nearing the end of its mission to destroy its 520-ton stockpile, a milestone that will likely mark the end of chemical weapons destruction projects in the U.S., officials said Wednesday.

The facility at the Blue Grass Army Depot is weeks away from eliminating the last of a stockpile of 51,000 M55 rockets with GB nerve agent that have been stored at the depot since the 1940s. The GB nerve agent, also known as sarin, a colorless and tasteless toxin, can cause respiratory failure leading to death. It is outlawed under international rules of warfare.

Another stockpile is being eliminated at an Army facility in Colorado, but that effort is expected to conclude before the Kentucky one. The two sites have the country’s last remaining chemical weapons that must be disposed of according to a 1997 worldwide treaty.

Military and civilian officials gathered Wednesday at Eastern Kentucky University to speak about the end of the project.

Kingston Reif, an assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control, said the destruction of the nation’s deadly chemical weapons has been “decades in the making.”

“As recently as a few years ago, we weren’t sure we could achieve our treaty commitment, so the fact that we are now on the doorstep is no small feat,” Reif said. He said all other nations who joined the treaty have finished destruction of their stockpiles.

Reif said the weapons are “heinous” and “the suffering they can inflict is unimaginable.”

“Which makes what’s being done here in Kentucky all the more important,” he said.

Destruction of the Kentucky stockpile began in 2019 after decades of planning and debate over how to dispose of the deadly war weapons.

Workers at the Kentucky facility, the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant, separate the deadly chemicals from their original rocket or projectile casings and then eliminate the agent, in most cases using a process known as neutralization, where the chemical agent is dissolved in a solution. Kentucky originally had stockpiles of VX, GB and mustard agent that had been stored in bunkers for decades. The mustard agent was eliminated in 2021 and the final rocket containing VX agent was neutralized at the plant in April 2022.

The final phase of destroying the M55 rockets with sarin has been the most challenging, because of the age and deterioration of the rockets, said Candace Coyle, the plant’s project manager. Each rocket carries about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) of the nerve agent.

The neutralization process was settled on in 2006 after outcry from residents and environmental groups that objected to the weapons being burned to eliminate the deadly chemicals.

The weapons kept in Kentucky and an Army facility in Pueblo, Colorado, represent the last 10% of the nation’s original stockpile of more than 30,000 tons (27,200 metric tons) of chemical weapons.

United States News

Associated Press

Widespread power outages from deadly Houston storm raise new risk: hot weather

HOUSTON (AP) — As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to thousands after deadly storms, it will do so Saturday under a smog warning and as all of southern Texas starts to feel the heat. The National Weather Service in Houston warned that with temperatures hitting around 90 degrees (32.2 C) […]

27 minutes ago


Nick Borgia

Arizona woman accused of involvement in major North Korean fraud scheme

An Arizona woman is being prosecuted for allegedly assisting in North Korean fraud schemes to place overseas IT workers in U.S. positions.

3 hours ago

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday...

Associated Press

Some in Houston facing no power for weeks after storms cause widespread damage, killing at least 4

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday, May 17. Thunderstorms hit the southeastern part of Texas, killing at least four people.

4 hours ago

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer...

Associated Press

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer

A man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for attacking the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Missouri candidate with ties to the KKK can stay on the Republican ballot, judge rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A longshot Missouri gubernatorial candidat e with ties to the Ku Klux Klan will stay on the Republican ticket, a judge ruled Friday. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker denied a request by the Missouri GOP to kick Darrell McClanahan out of the August Republican primary. McClanahan is running […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

UN experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion oil-backed loan from a UAE company

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion loan from a company in the United Arab Emirates, despite the oil-rich country’s difficulties in managing debts backed by its oil reserves. The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that loan documents it […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Kentucky chemical weapons disposal program nearly done as US eliminates final stockpiles