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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 650-03
September 03, 2003

U.S. Chemical Weapons Destruction Extension Requested

The Department of Defense announced today that the United States will not meet the 45 percent chemical weapons stockpile destruction deadline of April 29, 2004, as set down by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  The United States is therefore requesting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) grant an extension of the 45 percent destruction deadline.  The revised destruction date is December 2007.  The request will be made in accordance with the provisions of the CWC and is based on the status of destruction operations at U.S. chemical weapons demilitarization facilities and projection of future operations. 

 

The revised destruction date is based on historical destruction data from U.S. chemical weapons demilitarization facilities that have already operated and the estimates of the forecast contribution of facilities planned to be operating in the near future.  This date also takes into account legal and procedural barriers as well as technical and operational factors unique to each of the facilities.

 

The request for extension is permitted under the CWC, provided it is made at least 180 days before the deadline with a detailed explanation of the reasons for the request and plans for achieving destruction by the revised extension date.  Approximately 23 percent of the declared U.S. stockpile has been destroyed since the CWC entered into force in April 1997. 

 

The United States reached its previous milestones well in advance of the deadlines set by the CWC and it has been trying to complete destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile in order to meet the CWC’s final 2007 deadline to destroy the entirety of their stockpiles, but there have been significant obstacles.  The United States will address the extension of the 100 percent deadline at a later date, as allowed under the convention.  The convention allows member states to request up to a five-year extension of the final deadline. 

 

The U.S. chemical demilitarization program has had several delays due to unresolved political and operational issues that forced operational shutdowns or postponed start-up dates.  At the Tooele Chemical Destruction Facility in Utah, no destruction occurred for eight months due to an investigation of safety practices following an incident where a worker was exposed to a minute quantity of chemical agent during a maintenance operation. 

 

The United States is a strong proponent of the CWC and provides an important leadership role to member states and the OPCW.  The United States fully intends to honor all of its commitments to the CWC and fulfill all chemical weapons destruction obligations.

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