Inside the Agent Processing Building of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, an ordnance technician stands watch as another uses a munitions handling lift assist unit to place disassembled 155mm projectiles onto a conveyor for neutralization processing. The Pueblo plant has entered its operations phase after successfully completing a lengthy pilot testing period.
The protective enclosures that surround the Immobilized Cell Bioreactors and the Brine Reduction System in the Biotreatment Area of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant are illuminated by the rising sun. The Pueblo plant has entered its operations phase after successfully completing a lengthy pilot testing period.
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant is considered a fully operational facility after reaching milestones that mark the end of pilot testing.
“We are now officially complete with pilot testing,” said Ken Harrawood, project manager for the Bechtel Pueblo Team, speaking to the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission at a recent public meeting.
In early May the Pueblo plant, which is destroying munitions stored at the U.S. Army’s Pueblo Chemical Depot since the 1950s, successfully completed a third and final round of background sampling for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Harrawood said the state then lifted a cap of 137,000 munitions that it imposed for testing to gather data for a state permit application.
Following testing, a regulatory permit now restricts the plant to a processing rate of 24 155mm projectiles per hour. Harrawood said he expects that limit to be eased once the state has analyzed the data collected during testing. The state will then issue its permit.
The Pueblo facility is a pilot plant because it’s the first of its kind built to destroy chemical weapons by disassembling and draining munitions. A process chosen in partnership with the community, neutralization followed by biotreatment, is used to destroy the drained mustard agent.
The U.S is working to complete the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons stockpile by Dec. 31, 2023.