Tooele Army Depot isn't changing its plans - yet - in light of President Bush's offer Monday to destroy all of the country's enormous chemical weapons stockpiles.
Until now, the initial U.S. goal was to destroy 90 percent of the stockpile, said Susan Barrow, public relations officer for TAD. "At this point, at our level, we have received no new information regarding changes in schedule," she said Tuesday.But that might change soon with the president's declaration that all chemical arms will be destroyed within 10 years of the implementation of a worldwide ban on such weapons. A decision to eliminate the entire stockpile could mean more incineration takes place at TAD.
With most of its chemical-storage igloos located within 15 miles of Tooele, the base has 10,575 tons of deadly chemicals - more than any other base in the United States, amounting to 42.3 percent of the country's total. The weapons have been building up since the 1940s.
"We are currently building a full-scale chemical disposal facility here at Tooele. That facility is now under construction, and that construction will continue," Barrow said.
For a time, a pilot plant operated at TAD. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Deseret News discovered that eight accidents at the pilot plant from 1983 to 1987 allowed nerve gas to vent into the atmosphere - at up to 73 times the legal hourly limit.
In 1989, construction began on the full-fledged incinerator - the Tooele Chemical Disposal Facility. That was the year the United States and the Soviet Union signed an understanding to work at reducing their chemical stockpiles.
Since then, Soviet inspectors have toured TAD, and American experts have visited the Soviet Union's facilities.
Under the present timetable, chemical disposal operations should begin in February 1994 and end in 1999. After that, the plant will go through a closure process in which it is carefully checked for safety.
The full-scale facility - "and this includes all the engineering, design, training, operations, closure, depot support, the whole program," Barrow said - is estimated to cost $897 million. That amount is a substantial fraction of the $3.4 billion earmarked for similar disposal plants at the country's various stockpiles.
Another Army base in Utah - Dugway Proving Ground - has been involved with chemical weapons. But spokesman Dick Whitaker said earlier statements by Bush opposing chemical weapons led the base to beef up its work with defensive biological warfare testing, smoke obscurants and other material not related to chemical warfare.