for immediate release, Friday, January 27, 1995
ARMY PROPOSAL TO EXTEND LIFE OF JOHNSTON ATOLL
INCINERATOR BY FOUR YEARS AND DOUBLE ITS PROJECTED COST
UNDERMINES CREDIBILITY OF CHEM. WEAPONS DESTRUCTION
PROGRAM; PERMIT APPLICATION SAYS FACILITY DID NOT
FUNCTION HALF THE TIME
The Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS), which the Army claims is
a successful model for eight proposed incinerators on the U.S. mainland, has not operated
nearly half the time since it opened due to a series of design flaws, malfunctions and other
problems. The revelations are contained in a permit modification application filed by the
Army to extend the life of the facility for four years, doubling its projected lifetime costs.
JACADS is located in the Pacific Ocean 800 miles west of Hawaii.
When the plant opened in 1990, the Army said that JACADS would complete its work by
the summer of 1995 at a total cost of $660 million. The military now wants to continue
operations until 1999 and spend an additional $650 million.
Leaders of the national movement pursuing alternatives to chemical weapons incineration
seized on the permit extension as evidence of the program's flaws, "The ongoing failure of
JACADS demonstrates that incineration is a bankrupt approach to eliminating the U.S.
arsenal," said Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group (CWWG). "The
permit extension application directly contradicts statements the military has made to
Congress and clearly reveals the program's failures," he added, "Why did Defense
Secretary Aspin certify that the technology was 'proven?'". Williams lives near a
incinerator proposed for the Blue Grass Arsenal in Richmond, Kentucky.
One system at JACADS, the Dunnage Incinerator, operated for only two days from June
30, 1990 through August 31, 1994 according to the Army permit application. The Liquid
Incinerator, designed to vaporize chemical agent, did not operate on more than three-
quarters of the days in the same fifty-month period while the Metal Parts Furnace, which
decontaminates projectiles and containers, was non-operational more than eighty percent of
Overall, no operations except for storage occurred at JACADS on 164 days in 1994, even
using the Army's definition of an "operational day" as one in which hazardous waste was
processed for at least one hour. The record was worse in 1990 and 1991 when no portion
of the facility operated on more than half the days of the two year period.
Despite JACADS poor operating history, former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin certified
that "prove out" of the equipment and facility at Johnston Atoll was completed in August,
1993. That decision allowed a similar incinerator at Tooele, Utah, to begin pre-operational testing and
construction of the other incinerator complexes to move forward.
Recently Steve Jones, the former chief safety officer at Tooele, was fired after claiming that
the Utah facility is severely flawed. "It's clear that the entire incinerator program is a house
of cards," Williams charged. "Tooele is defective because it is modeled on JACADS,
which could not do the job it was designed for."
Among the problems at JACADS which the Army permit modification request cites as
reasons for the extension:
~ Release of the chemical warfare agent GB to the atmosphere on two occasions, the most
recent resulting in a nearly four month suspension of processing in 1994;
~ Jamming of the Deactivation Furnace System producing fires on two occasions;
~ Damage to a heating oven due to an explosion; and
~ Munitions handling equipment problems which took two years to reduce to a "semi-
Williams says that the CWWG, in cooperation with local activists in the Pacific, will
challenge the Army's permit extension request. "The military-industry love affair, bound
by contracts and promises of huge profits is apparently the major reason for the Army's
continuing support of incineration," added Hayden Burgess of the Pacific Asia Council of
Indigenous Peoples. "No permit modification should give the Army an open-ended
opportunity to conduct incineration."
Craig Williams concluded, "Congress should now force the Army to choose
environmentally safe and fiscally responsible alternatives to demilitarize, and ultimately
destroy, the chemical weapons arsenal."
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Copies of the U.S. Army Johnston Atoll permit extension application are available from the
Chemical Weapons Working Group by calling Craig Williams at (606) 986-7565 or Bob
Schaeffer at (617) 489-0461.
CWWG Home Page
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
P.O. Box 467
Berea, KY 40403
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