Umatilla Chemical Depot Sarin Rocket Disposal Nearly Complete - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Umatilla Chemical Depot Sarin Rocket Disposal Nearly Complete

HERMISTON, Oreg.- The Umatilla Chemical Depot in Hermiston is approaching a milestone.

The depot plans on finishing disposal of the rockets this week, ending a two year process that leaves area residents breathing a sigh of relief.

More than 91,000 rockets have been destroyed at the depot, leaving only a couple hundred remaining, marking a landmark for the depot.

"It's certainly significant to the community, the risk reduction, everything we do is all about safety, and the safety for the workers, the community, the environment," said Bruce Henrickson, Public Affairs Officer for the Depot.

A jam in the system delayed the process over the weekend, but cleanup is still on track, and once it's done, area resident's will be safer than ever before.

"We will have reduced the public risk from storage of the munitions at the Umatilla Chemical Depot by 91 percent," said Henrickson. 

The disposal process involves slowly disassembling the rockets, then burning their parts in an incinerator before sending the remaining metal to commercial landfills.

Once they finish destroying the rockets, they'll start getting rid of sarin filled projectiles.

"We need to spend about 7 weeks retooling the plant to process projectiles instead of rockets, because they're different sizes and different configurations," said Henrickson.

"And actually the projectiles require the use of 3 different furnaces."

The projectiles are launched from cannons, whereas rockets are self propelled.

Disposal of all sarin nerve agents is scheduled for completion by 2007.

Future plans also involve disposal of VX weapons stored in the depot's 1,001 weapons bunkers.

The Umatilla Depot is one of eleven such sights around the nation.