US VX nerve gas disposal test a success

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Monday, May 9, 2005

Workers at Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana have completed a successful test-run of a chemical reactor designed to dispose of Cold War stockpiles of VX nerve agent.

After encountering initial difficulties when the temperature in the reactor grew too high, workers were able to adjust the speed of the device. 180 gallons of VX and water were turned into a caustic but far less lethal compound, that can be further reprocessed into an inert substance.

A residue of 14 parts VX per billion remained; the Army's eventual goal is less than 20 parts. One drop of VX can kill a grown man.

The conversion of the VX stockpiled at the facility is projected to take two years. Then the drain cleaner-like waste product with its small residue of VX will need to be sent to another facility for reprocessing into a safer, biodegradable compound.

A controversial plan has Dupont doing the reprocessing at their facility in New Jersey, and dumping the compound into the nearby Delaware River.

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