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VAPOR from suspected nerve agent detected in sealed container

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ The McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is taking precautions after vapor from a suspected deadly nerve gas was detected in a sealed one-ton gas container, officials said.

The steel container where the vapor was detected did not leak and there was no immediate threat to anyone at the plant, plant spokesman Mark Hughes said.

Even so, the plant's commander, Col. Pat Dunkle, ordered that the plant's after-hours club and swimming pool be closed. Both are near the site where the vapor was detected this week. A safety perimeter also was set up around the area.

The suspect container and 29 other containers that originally held the nerve gas, Sarin, were being held in a secure area of the plant, Hughes said.

He said all the containers were being tested for the vapor as a precaution and that sensitive testing equipment was being brought to the facility to further examine the suspect container.

As of Friday, 14 containers had been tested. One indicated a possible presence of Sarin vapor inside. The maximum concentration detected was 0.00256 milligrams per cubic meter. There has been no Sarin vapor detected outside any containers.

The containers, which were developed to hold chlorine gas in World War I, were received by the army ammunition plant in 1977 from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal along with paperwork saying they were empty and had been contaminated, Hughes said.

The vapor was discovered while the containers were being processed for disposal, Hughes said.

The Army Ammunition plan stores and ships conventional munitions, and does not store chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, Hughes said.

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