To support the Blue Grass VX destruction campaign, technicians converted more than 300 air-monitoring machines to detect VX agent last summer.
“The VX molecule does not travel down a sample line like the GB agent molecule did, so the VX vapor needed to be chemically altered upon entry to the sample line to make it detectable,” said Dr. George Lucier, deputy chief scientist, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “We installed conversion pad assemblies, which are impregnated with silver fluoride, to the equipment we previously used to detect GB agent. The pads convert the VX molecule into what is called G-analog, which can be sampled and detected by the air-monitoring systems.”
Prior to the start of the VX projectile campaign, the monitoring systems were tested for effective transmission and then put through a 28-day baselining process that certified each monitoring station and analytical method for use, Lucier said. Now that the plant is in VX agent operations, the systems are routinely tested to ensure they are functioning properly.
“Laboratory technicians inject small amounts of dilute solutions of VX into the monitoring equipment on a regular schedule to verify that the systems would detect agent if it were present,” Lucier said. “Our primary focus is the safety of the workforce and the air-monitoring system is a very large part of that effort.”
The monitoring systems will remain converted for the next campaign, VX M55 rocket destruction, then return to GB detection for the main plant’s final campaign, GB M55 rocket destruction.