“First, we had to make sure these old motors had not degraded during decades of storage to a point where they would be dangerous in transport,” said John Barton, chief scientist, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “Then we thoroughly screened all of them for any potential contamination prior to temporary storage and final destruction.”
The rocket motors contain propellant, designed to burn to provide the flight energy, and a flash-charge process designed to ignite the propellant, Barton said. The materials are contained in the rocket body, which sits within a fiberglass shipping and firing tube.
Once separated from the warhead by the Vertical Rocket Cutting Machine, the motors are loaded into specialized crates and closely monitored for traces of chemical agent. Crates that have been determined to have no chemical agent contamination are then placed into permitted storage igloos on the depot to await their shipment to the Anniston, Alabama, Static Detonation Chamber unit for destruction. The motors will be tracked for treaty purposes.
“Motor-related agent hazard is negligible for transportation risk in every way,” Barton said. “We perform extensive monitoring and inspection under strict Army guidelines, using highly sensitive analytical equipment. This ensures that the motors did not become contaminated when separated from the warhead, or during previous storage.”
Blue Grass personnel will provide a briefing on the topic to the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, likely in early November. Shipment of the motors will begin some time after the briefing.