CHEM-ARMS DESTRUCTION PLAN DERAILED

Already more than $23 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule, America's program for destroying its stockpile of chemical weapons will now be delayed until 2012, at least.On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that it had asked for international regulators' consent to miss by three and a half years an April 2004 deadline to eliminate 45 percent of its blister and nerve agent cache.What was left unsaid, according to government reports and Army sources, is the new final deadline: 2012, the last moment possible under the Chemical Weapons Convention. And even that date could slip."We're planning on finishing by 2012, presuming everything goes right for the next eight, nine years. But you know as well as I that nothing 'always goes right,'" said Dick Sloan, a spokesman for the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, where 523 tons of lethal VX and sarin are slated for disposal, starting around 2006.At the moment, none of the military's disposal installations are getting rid of any chemical arms, according to Army representatives at the facilities:

A recently opened incinerator in Anniston, Alabama, is closed for the week for furnace inspections. The facility has been shut down more than 20 percent of the time since it first started firing in August.An older incinerator, in Tooele, Utah, has been down since Sept. 4. The Chemical Weapons Working Group claims that more than 75 alarms about escaped lethal agents have sounded in the last six months alone at Tooele, which was closed from July 2002 to March 2003 after a plant worker was exposed to sarin.The chemical neutralization plant in Aberdeen, Maryland -- which began work in April -- has been offline since Aug. 16, after air filters started to spew smoke. It won't return to full capacity until mid-November.
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