Modifications designed by the maintenance team at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant are helping to reduce the effects of pressurized rounds.
“We came together as a plant,” said Bill Simmons, assistant maintenance manager, PCAPP. “Operations and Maintenance and Engineering all went away and came up with ideas on how we can mitigate that champagning from spreading contamination.”
Two robotic Munitions Washout System lines puncture and drain 155mm projectiles of their mustard agent using Cavity Access Machines, or CAMs, then spray them with a high-pressure wash.
Simmons said it’s the latest example of ongoing improvement to equipment and processes at the plant. Splash guards were already added to PCAPP’s equipment to deal with pressurized 155mm rounds. Some lots of aging munitions, however, were found to have significantly more force than others, causing a jet of chemical agent to spray upward like popping open a champagne bottle and sometimes dislodging the cuplike splash guard. Blistering mustard agent can spew over the equipment in the room, requiring time-consuming decontamination procedures and threatening electronics.
Building on the round, rubber-cup design of the original splash guard, the new version features two added relief ports attached to tubes an inch in diameter and several feet in length to contain the agent as it sprays upward. This allows agent to simply drain back down through the CAMs as designed.
“This was an easy way to add some additional relief capacity, so when the pulse came it didn’t blow off the top,” said Troy Bodle, maintenance technical specialist, PCAPP, who was involved in the new splash guard’s development.
“Sometimes the most effective solution is something simple,” Simmons said. “He just used physics and came up with something simple, inexpensive, and that’s important because we want to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.
The modifications use commercially available components, making them a cost-effective solution, and they allow the equipment to remain lightweight and simple – which, Bodle said, is essential because installation and maintenance requires workers to enter contaminated areas using full Demilitarization Protective Ensemble gear that can make technical work challenging.
“Everything that we can do to make that easier makes it safer and more cost-effective, because they can get in and do multiple things instead of just one thing,” he said. “It pretty much is just an update to something that we have already been doing.”