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Arsenal OK'd to step up mustard gas destruction

By The Associated Press

This article was published May 20, 2009 at 12:08 p.m.

— State environmental regulators have cleared the chemical weapons disposal facility at the Pine Bluff Arsenal to accelerate its incineration of its mustard gas stockpile.

The arsenal said Tuesday that the Department of Environmental Quality has signed off on a plan to increase rate at which the deadly material is sent into the incinerator from 50 percent to 75 percent of the permitted maximum for each furnace.

The facility began destroying ton containers of mustard blister agent Dec. 7. That's the last, but largest, store of the chemical weapons that are to be destroyed.

Destruction began in March 2005 with GB (sarin) nerve agent rockets. Destruction of VX nerve agent rockets was completed in February 2008 and the last of the VX land mines were destroyed in June 2008.

As of Monday, the facility had destroyed 494 containers holding 826,745 pounds of mustard agent, which was 13.34 percent of the total mustard containers to be destroyed. The arsenal had incinerated 27.13 percent of the total chemical agent stored there originally.

The arsenal had 12 percent of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile before the destruction program began.

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