Community members learned about a thermal destruction technology proposed for use at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant during the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission meeting March 21.
“The Static Detonation Chamber uses pyrolysis to treat chemical agent and explosives,” said Dan Cox, assistant project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team. Pyrolysis is thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen.
Cox said the SDC was proposed due to its safety record, environmental and regulatory history, as well as successful destruction of chemical weapons in Anniston, Alabama. He said the benefits of the technology is it can be easily deployed, has minimal human interface, is non-intrusive, does not require liquid draining or processing and is low maintenance.
An environmental assessment, as well as state and local permitting will need to be completed before the SDC proposal can be implemented.
Two SDC units would be used to destroy 4.2-inch mortar rounds and problematic munitions, under a proposal by the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program. Due to performance issues identified during the first year of pilot testing, and in order to complete destruction of the stockpile by 2023, this technology is being considered to augment the main plant.
“The primary issue is worker safety,” said Greg Mohrman, site project manager, PCAPP. “The mustard agent in the shells is believed to be contaminated with more rust than originally expected, making it difficult for the plant’s robotic equipment to open them. If the shells don’t open cleanly, workers would have to don protective suits and intervene.”
“Our overall commitment is correcting issues and using the PCAPP facility to its fullest extent,” said Mohrman. “We are not taking any funding from the pilot plant in order to finance SDC.”
Munitions to be destroyed using an SDC are placed in a feed tray, conveyed to the top of the SDC vessel and fed into the electrically-heated detonation chamber. The high heat detonates or deflagrates the munition, and the agent and energetics are destroyed by thermal decomposition. The gases generated as a result of the detonation are treated by an Off-gas Treatment System.