Experts are changing the way they will process nerve agent-filled rockets at the Blue Grass plant to bypass part of the system in favor of a simpler, safer technology.
“We’re replacing the energetics-destruction part of the process with what we are calling the Rocket Warhead Containerization System,” said Jeff Brubaker, technical advisor, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “We have identified operational concerns which could lead to worker safety issues with the Energetics Batch Hydrolyzers and Energetics Neutralization Reactors that we will avoid by using this new process.”
Eliminating the energetics-destruction equipment will result in fewer Demilitarization Protective Ensemble entries, where workers suit up to enter toxic areas of the plant to perform maintenance and other functions, Brubaker said.
The new process also uses technology not available during the design phase of the project. The plant will punch and drain rocket warheads as planned, then the drained warheads will be robotically containerized and destroyed in the plant’s existing Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) 1200 and the incoming SDC 2000. The SDC 1200 will be re-equipped with a new off-gas treatment system to support nerve-agent operations.
“In planning the new process, we worked to use as much of the previous equipment as possible, such as the punch and drain system,” Brubaker said. “We have also developed a specialized canister for each warhead similar to the containers we use to overpack leaking rockets. The SDC systems will destroy the warheads within the container, so no worker intervention is required.”
The design for this change is currently about 90% complete and workers have already removed some rocket-processing equipment from the Munitions Demilitarization Building, Brubaker said.
The plant is still required to submit permit modifications to receive approval from the state to adapt/assemble the SDCs. These actions will include comment periods, public information meetings and public hearings/meetings.