DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, April 14, 1998 - 1:40 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


Q: On napalm, there's napalm headed on a train toward Indiana, but it looks like Indiana doesn't want it now. The contractor there. What's going to happen to this napalm?

A: Good question. The Navy is going to be working this issue. They will come up with a solution.

Let me explain what's going on here, because I think this issue should be seen in proper context.

The napalm has been sitting in California for about the last 25 years. It is stable. It's in a gelatinous form. It is not explosive. It is very safe to transport. There are 23 million pounds of napalm sitting in California. The Navy wants to destroy this napalm. It has to do that by taking it out of canisters and putting it into tanks which can be transported to a place where the napalm can be destroyed.

What they had arranged through the Patel Institute was to work with a company in Indiana that would take the napalm and combine it with other waste, and then burn it in cement kilns where it would be used to dry cement. So this was -- in a way it was a triple win because one, it would get rid of the napalm; two, it would get rid of other hazardous waste; and [three], it would do this in a productive way by helping to dry cement.

I've read that the contractor that was actually going to do this job, Pollution Control Industries, has decided not to do it, and so the Navy will, I'm sure, be talking to... This contractor was a subcontractor to Patel. I'm sure the Navy will be talking to Patel about what its fallback plans are. It would be trying to decide whether this is an irrevocable decision on the part of Pollution Control Industries, and it will also be looking at other options for disposing of the napalm.

Q: There was presumably a contract regarding the disposal. Negotiations have gone on for about two years, as I understand it. Is DoD involved legally in trying to enforce this contract? Is it purely Navy?

A: I believe this is a contract that the Navy had worked out with the Patel Institute and Patel had gone to a subcontractor that was actually going to destroy the napalm.

Q: The train that is en-route, that's a commercial train?

A: It's a commercial train. Let me point this out. Every day, some eight million barrels of gasoline are transported in this country by tank cars and by tractor trailer trucks that go into nearly every community in the nation delivering gasoline. Gasoline is a far more volatile, dangerous product to transport than napalm is. Napalm is much more resistant to either conflagration or to explosion than gasoline is.

What we have here is one tank car of napalm carrying 12,000 pounds of napalm from a place in California to a place in Indiana. This is a carefully worked out plan by the Navy. The napalm is being carried in two special containers that are loaded onto one car. They had never planned to run entire trains of this. They had always planned to keep the shipments to one car at a time per train. They had, I think, developed a very safe and careful plan for transporting this, and they had depended on contractors to develop safe, environmentally acceptable plans for disposing of the napalm.

The disposal plan had been approved by the EPA and by other agencies, so everything was set up for this to work. Right now the Navy is, with this letter that they've received from Pollution Control Industries, is now relooking at what its options are. Obviously one option would be to carry out the contract as written, and they'll have to work this out. They're in the process of doing that now.

Q: Do any of the other services have stockpiles of napalm?

A: I can't answer that question. We'll find that out.


............ Press: Thank you.