Workers who will enter contaminated areas of the Blue Grass plant during operations are now training in suits designed specifically to protect them from exposure to chemical agent.
“The government requested a suit be created for the chemical demilitarization program, starting with the first disposal site on Johnston Atoll,” said Ken Fells, operations support manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “It had to be protective against chemical agent and tough enough to stand up to plant maintenance work, yet be flexible enough to allow workers to perform their duties.”
Demilitarization Protective Ensembles, affectionately known as moon suits, are made from pressed polyvinyl chloride and are designed to resist direct chemical-agent contact, Fells said. Workers will wear support equipment, including a cooling vest, an air tank and communications gear, which can weigh up to 70 pounds, inside the suit. Participants are currently training in the suits.
“The material is rigorously tested under government controls and then sent to the suit manufacturer,” Fells said. “The same vendor has made the suits for the duration of the demilitarization program. I feel very confident the suit is very safe.”
Workers may be in the suit for up to four hours as they put it on and get sealed into it, perform their duties, decontaminate each other and then get cut out of the suit, Fells said. Used suits will be properly processed as hazardous waste.