The Army says it will explore alternative methods of destroying Pershing missile rocket motors, but it is unlikely a new method would be used even if one were found.
The Army has extended a contract with Atlanta-based Ebasco Corp., which will look for alternative methods of eliminating the Pershings, said Mary Wilson, spokeswoman for the Pueblo Army Depot Activity.Ebasco was the primary contractor for monitoring the static-firing that destroyed one Pershing motor in a test at the PDA in May. Under the static-fire method, rocket motors are harnessed to a concrete and steel structure and ignited.
Dave Harris, public affairs officer for the U.S. Missile Command, said the contract to explore alternatives was in response "to the environmental issues that we've encountered in Colorado and Utah."
The Army has spent at least $1 million trying to determine the long-range environmental effects of burning the rocket motors, Harris said.
The missiles must be destroyed under terms of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty signed between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Army plans to destroy most of the missiles at a site in Texas.
Last week, over the protest of some environmentalists, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission agreed to amend the state's emission control regulation to allow the burning of rocket motors at PDA.
The state Health Department is expected to act by Nov. 1 on the Army's request for a permit to destroy up to 750 rocket motors by the static-fire method.
Lt. Col. John Chapla of the Pershing Project said the United States "would not renegotiate the Intermediate-Forces Nuclear Treaty" even if Ebasco found another method.
Harris said it was "doubtful we could find proven technology within the treaty timelines."
"The treaty tells us how to eliminate the Pershings and gives us the timelines," he said. "We don't have a lot of time."
Health Department officials are asking for public comment on the Army's application for static-firing the rocket motors. Public comment will be accepted until Oct. 14.