The Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant has resumed destroying 155 mm artillery shells loaded with mustard agent after pausing “when two storage tanks were taken out of service due to small leaks that were identified and immediately mitigated to prevent further issues,” a news release says.
The Pueblo Chemical Depot is one of two remaining Army installations that store chemical weapons, its website says.
The heavily automated plant at the depot rips open shells loaded with the chemical agent that have been in storage since the Cold War.
The plant temporarily stopped destroying the chemical weapons “after a routine inspection May 15 found hydrolysate seeping from two of three 30-Day Hydrolysate Storage Tanks, which were built with weep holes designed to alert the plant to any issues,” says the release from the Program Executive Office of Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.
Following protocol, the plant suspended operations that generate the hydrolysate, a product of the chemical neutralization of mustard agent, the release says. The seepage amounted to less than 8 ounces.
Operations resumed June 12.
Before the pause, the plant had eliminated more than 774 tons of the agent — about 30% of the last remaining American stockpile of mustard agent weapons, the release says.
The depot’s destruction facility was built after the United States joined a treaty that banned the weapons and mandated their destruction. Under the agreement, the U.S. stockpile was mandated to be destroyed by 2007, but Pueblo has faced a string of delays in building and operating the robotic plant that rips the weapons open, washes out the mustard gas and neutralizes it.