Tooele Army Depot has begun to store components of new U.S. binary chemical weapons.
Hope that such arms would soon be banned worldwide was trumpeted last year when a Soviet team visited Tooele to see how America plans to destroy older, unstable chemical weapons the binaries will replace. Current treaties ban use of chemical weapons, but not production or storage.But recent developments are making the likelihood of any total ban appear difficult, U.S. officials close to arms negotiations told the Deseret News last week. Chemical arms may remain at Tooele for a long - maybe very long - time.
Two events have complicated chemical arms negotiations recently: use of such hideous weapons by Iraq in its war with Iran, and CIA announcements that Libya is building a massive chemical arms plant with the help of Japan Steel. Each event raises tough issues for negotiators.
Iraqi use of chemical arms allows other nations to claim that they are still at risk of chemical attacks, even though most nations have denounced them as abhorrent and uncivilized.
Also, the situation shows smaller, third-world nations that they may inflict large-scale terror and death with chemical arms, which are relatively easy to produce. They don't require exotic technology like nuclear arms - but their result is much the same, sort of a poor-man's A-bomb.
But some U.S. officials hope that the Iraqi chemical arms attacks may have also presented the means to overcome the same obstacles they emphasized.
Pictures of mothers with babes in arms killed in mid-stride, pictures of whole cities filled with corpses of civilians,and descriptions of how merely walking over a field sprayed with nerve gas days before could kill - all this may, as one official said, "help the world get religion and stop this."
The problem for negotiators is how, if a ban is approved, to verify that arms are indeed destroyed and not being produced.
Construction of the Libyan chemcial arms plant with Japanese aid raises questions of how to convince nations to stop helping others produce chemical arms.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, is among senators who have already introducted legislation to impose U.S. economic penalties on foreign companies that sell chemical arms to terrorist states, such as Libya.
But problems exist. Congress passed a bill to punish companies such as Japan's Toshiba for selling milling machines to the Soviets that improved their submarines, but lax implementation of the sanctions have not stopped Toshiba from selling some of its goods in the U.S. as ordered.
Also, as Garn said about the chemical arms bill, "We are attempting to control the spread of technology that in many cases is relatively unsophisticated. Use of sanctions is sure to raise howls of protests from governments and industry. But just as in the Toshiba-Kongsberg case, we must put the world on notice that there are some crimes we will not tolerate."
The world will be able to begin negotiations at chemical arms talks this January in Paris sponsored by the French government. U.S. officials hope 150 or so countries will send representatives. Other talks between America and the Soviet Union are continuing in Geneva.
While a ban may not be imminent, Utahns may at least take some solace in the fact that the new binaries arriving at Tooele are safer to store than older arms. At least 784 of those older arms at Tooele are leaking, which is why the Army plans to destroy them in the next several years.
Such older "unitary" weapons store already mixed toxic nerve agent. Newer binary weapons mix in-flight two different chemicals, which by themselves are harmless, to form deadly nerve agents. The Army said it is even storing the two chemical components of the binaries in different states to ensure safety.
Currently, Tooele has clearance for only temporary storage of such components, but is working on legal and environmental clearance to allow permanent storage.