Umatilla Chemical Depot begins dismantling

Workers at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Umatilla, Oregon, recently began the process of dismantling one of the facility’s furnace systems.

Hal McCune, a spokesman for URS Corporation, the civilian contractor in charge of chemical weapons destruction at the depot, said that a subcontractor began staging materials in preparation to remove brick from the deactivation furnace system, according to

“It's kind of the first step in deactivating the furnace,” McCune said, reports. “We don't need the DFS anymore, is what it boils down to.”

The furnace, which is capable of reaching temperatures of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, was used to destroy the explosives found in much of the weaponry stored at the plant. Once the company began to eliminate mustard agent, the DFS was no longer needed.

The DFS is one of three types of furnaces used at the depot. Two of the other furnaces are liquid incinerators that can handle mustard agent. The third type is a metal-parts furnace used to destroy the ton containers used to store the agent.

It is estimated that it could take up to six weeks to remove the brick from the DFS.

“There's still a lot of work to be done,” McCune said, according to “(Brick removal) gives us a jump start on getting this work done. The goal is to speed it up if we can.”

McCune said that the depot is fully capable of meeting the November deadline for the elimination of the remaining mustard agent stockpile. Almost 90 percent of the material has already been destroyed. McCune estimates that it will take three to four years to fully close the plant.