Up in Smoke

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TOOELE ARMY DEPOT, Utah: It is harder to create than to destroy, but some items are very tricky to get rid of. Especially chemical weapons. The U.S. Army has begun a long and delicate process of incinerating a stockpile of bombs, rockets and land mines containing nerve gas and other chemical poisons in the face of strong protests from the host state of Utah. A special $400 million incinerator located there and designed to reduce the weapons to molten metal and ash is the only device in the U.S. which can cope with the dangerous compounds in the arms. The incinerator will operate 12 hours a day for the first few weeks of a testing period, and then switch over to a 24 hour schedule. Environmental protesters concerned about nerve gas leaks unsuccessfully appealed to Utah's Board of Solid and Hazardous Waste Thursday morning in a last minute attempt to stop the operation. Some 60 rockets were scheduled for incineration Thursday, which will make a very small dent in the entire U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. The Army plan will cost at least $12 billion to dispose of some 1.1 million items (some of them dating back to World War II), which is cheap at the price, considering the possible alternative of a nerve gas spill. -->