ANNISTON, Ala. - The Army has identified a half-dozen possible uses for a multibillion dollar chemical weapons incinerator now that it has finished destroying tons of chemical weapons stored at Anniston Army Depot.
The Anniston Star reported Tuesday that an Army report outlines potential uses including Army equipment repair; hazardous waste disposal; a homeland security research center; and commercial uses such as manufacturing high-value-added chemicals or electronic equipment recycling.
The newspaper obtained a copy of the report from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's office.
The incinerator - which has about 900 employees - is set to be decontaminated and razed under federal law, but nearby support buildings and structures will remain. Officials say only 30 percent of the entire complex will be demolished under current plans, leaving most of it available for alternative uses.
Laws would have to be changed for the incinerator itself to survive, and the first step of that process would involve a request from Gov. Robert Bentley. Bentley press secretary Jennifer Ardis said the governor?s office is in talks with the Army about options for the facility, but it is too early for a formal request.
The Army would have to agree to reuse the incinerator if Bentley made such a request, and Congress would have to change the federal law and fund incinerator's use for a new task.
One potential use mentioned in the report is refitting the plant to destroy old M26 Multiple Rocket Launch System projectiles now stored at the depot. The newspaper reported that using the plant to destroy conventional munitions is the option getting the most serious consideration.
Shelby?s office will meet with Army representatives next week to discuss the options presented in the report, the newspaper reported. Life after chemical weapon incineration is a question that is weighing heavily on the minds of Anniston City Council members, and city planner Toby Bennington a joint effort to reuse the facility may be needed.
"I think it would be a grand opportunity for a city-county partnership," Bennington said. "I would think that?s the way that it needs to be approached."
The Army says it spent $15.6 billion in developing, constructing and operating the incinerator. The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce requested that the Army report on potential new uses for the incinerator, said president Sherri Sumners.
"We felt like it was a matter of due diligence," Sumners said. "Before you tear down a billion-dollar facility, you ought to look if there are some clean, safe, practical uses that we could use to keep people working."