Aging chemical weapons would not be transferred to Tooele Army Depot under a national base-closure plan that includes reductions at two other bases with stockpiles of lethal munitions, officials say.
The Army's Umatilla weapons depot in Oregon and Pueblo depot in Colorado were included on a list of military installations recommended for closure, partial closure or realignment by Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci's Commission on Base Re-alignments and Closures.However, Umatilla and Pueblo were recommended only for partial closure because of their ongoing missions of chemical demilitarization, the commission said.
The designation means some personnel will be transferred, but the weapons will be destroyed on site, said Maj. Dick Bridges, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
"The activity will remain there," he said.
In all, the commission recommended full closure of 86 U.S. bases, including Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, partial closure of five installations and realignments for 54.
Tooele, which with Umatilla and Pueblo is among eight Army chemical weapons depots, would get 82 civilian supply workers from the Colorado base under the closure plan, but no weapons.
"The commission was prevented from closing Umatilla (and Pueblo) because of the ongoing chemical demilitarization mission," the commission's report said.
It also noted that the capability to destroy the weapons will not be ready at Umatilla until 1994 and at Pueblo until 1995. Disposal is to be completed by 1997.
The commission recommended closing the two depots after destruction is complete.
Umatilla spokeswoman Donna Fuzi said law requires destruction of the Army's unitary chemical weapons, which can kill without reacting with another chemical. Unitary chemical weapons are being replaced by the binary type, in which non-toxic substances are mixed upon activation of the weapon to form the lethal agent.
The Army previously studied how to eliminate unitary weapons and decided they should not be moved from their stockpiles, Fuzi said.
Peter Jenks, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said the chemical bombs would not be moved unless there was a change in law or defense policy.
The commission recommended moving the conventional ammunition operations mission of Umatilla to the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant in Nevada. Pueblo's would go to Red River Army Depot in Texas.
Bridges said that means the job of handling arms, not necessarily stored weapons themselves, would be moved.
"It (the commission report) talks about missions, not munitions," he said.
The commission did not suggest that any units displaced by the recommended closure of five Air Force bases be given a new home at Hill Air Force Base.