Experts at the Blue Grass project are considering using the Static Detonation Chamber facility that will destroy mustard-agent munitions to also complete destruction of problematic nerve-agent munitions.
“We have to recognize these are very serious chemicals and munitions that are overpacked and potentially leaking,” said Jeff Brubaker, site project manager, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “We can process the overpacked containers directly into the chamber instead of physically handling and manipulating them.”
The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives intends to test the chamber, known as the SDC, for the possibility of nerve agent destruction after the mustard campaign.
Brubaker said during a public meeting in Richmond, Kentucky Sept. 12 he is confident the main plant will process the majority of the nerve agent stockpile, but he also made the community aware of the program’s requirement for a back-up plan.
“We would like to emphasize that SDC nerve agent processing is a contingency plan to ensure worker and community safety, which remains our number one priority,” said Craig Williams, co-chair, Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board. “We don’t want to shut the plant down in the middle of destruction or send people in to deal with problems.”
The SDC agent test will occur on site using a surrogate material, monochlorobenzine, Brubaker said. Testing will gather data for the possibility of processing overpacked munitions and rejected nerve agent projectiles as well as M55 rocket warheads in overpacks. Additionally, the SDC could process approximately 280 8-inch nerve agent projectiles known to contain stabilizers that have caused the agent to gel, which could present significant processing challenges with the neutralization process in the main facility.
The testing will provide data needed by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to approve the use of the SDC for the destruction of nerve agent.