The Anniston Field Office, or AFO, is an element of the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, known as PEO ACWA, located at the Anniston Army Depot, Alabama. The mission of the AFO is to support destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile located in Pueblo, Colorado, and near Richmond, Kentucky. Prior to becoming part of the ACWA program, many AFO personnel were assigned to the former Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, known as ANCDF, which completed chemical demilitarization operations in 2011. At the completion of the ANCDF mission, most facilities were dismantled, with the exception of the Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC. The SDC was clean-closed for chemical agent, a process which ensures no chemical agent remains in the entire system.
How Does SDC Technology Work?
The SDC uses thermal destruction technology to process the weapons. Chemical munitions are placed in a feed box, conveyed to the top of the SDC vessel and fed into the electrically heated detonation chamber. The high heat (approximately 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit) detonates the munition, and the chemical agents and energetics are destroyed by thermal decomposition. Gases generated as a result of the process are treated by an off-gas treatment system that includes a thermal oxidizer, scrubbers and a carbon filter system. All waste streams generated are screened and remaining scrap metal is decontaminated to be recycled.
How Will the AFO Support Chemical Weapons Destruction in Colorado and Kentucky?
The chemical weapons stockpile located in Colorado originally consisted of more than 2,600 U.S. tons of mustard agent in projectiles and mortar rounds. The Pueblo plant is using neutralization followed by biotreatment, along with SDC units, to destroy the remaining stockpile. Explosive components removed at the Pueblo plant are monitored for mustard agent and shipped to the Anniston SDC after they are determined to be non-contaminated. The Anniston SDC is capable of providing a dedicated, efficient source for explosives disposal, as well as opportunities for additional non-chemical agent waste disposal research and investigation. The chemical weapons stockpile located in Kentucky contains more than 500 U.S. tons of weaponized mustard and nerve agent in rockets and artillery projectiles, including approximately 15,000 mustard projectiles that contain solidified mustard agent. As such, these munitions are unsuitable for the main plant’s automated processing systems and instead are processed by an SDC that operates on-site at the Blue Grass plant. Additionally, SDC technology was selected to process drained rocket warheads and overpacked rockets from the nerve agent stockpile to augment main plant destruction in Kentucky. The SDC in Anniston is also used to train both Blue Grass and Pueblo plant SDC operators.