WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- For a second time, the U.S. government has extended its schedule for destroying chemical weapons, this time by 11 years, USA Today reported Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Defense had a 2007 deadline under the international Chemical Weapons Convention but got a 5-year extension. Now, in documents seen by the newspaper, the deadline has been extended until 2023.
There are five sites that are either incinerating or neutralizing the various nerve gases and blistering agents, and Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Chris Isleib said technological challenges, as well as safety and security issues at the sites were responsible for the latest extension.
"Destroying these weapons safely is not a fast or simple process," Isleib told the newspaper.
The most recent statistics available show the U.S. military has destroyed 41 percent of its 31,500-ton chemical arsenal.
Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Kentucky-based coalition of citizen groups from stockpile sites, was critical of the extension.
"To intentionally put tens of thousands of Americans at an unnecessary risk by continuing to store these weapons is reprehensible," Williams told the newspaper.