Blue Grass plant workers are decontaminating and decommissioning equipment associated with the projectile destruction system.
“With all projectiles containing chemical agent destroyed, we saw this as an early opportunity to remove a hazard from the building,” said Dr. George Lucier, deputy chief scientist, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “Not only will we be getting rid of the hazard, but this work will also help us save schedule time during the closure phase.”
Decontamination involves safely cleaning away and neutralizing any chemical agent that may have splashed, spilled or vapor-deposited within the facility. Decommissioning involves removing equipment and tools from service at the plant.
On May 28, 2021, the final 155mm projectile containing VX nerve agent was destroyed in the main plant. This marked the destruction of all nerve agent projectiles at the Blue Grass Army Depot. From there, attention turned to destroying VX M55 rockets in a different area of the main plant.
“Our plant is really two plants in one with some overlap,” Lucier said. “Now we can safely decontaminate some of the equipment no longer needed for projectile destruction while rocket destruction continues.”
Project personnel worked with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to receive approval for a Munitions Washout System, or MWS, decontamination plan, Lucier said. In November 2021, workers began decontamination efforts in the MWS room.
Since that time, work has focused on flushing pipes, pumps and sumps to ensure they are clean from nerve agent. They are also ensuring occluded or obstructed spaces are clean. Workers have been terminating the hydraulic system and testing hydraulic fluid to ensure there is no agent present. Eventually, the Cavity Access Machines, robot and other equipment will be dismantled and decontaminated.
“Some equipment will stay in the room,” Lucier said. “For example, the conveyors leading to the Metal Parts Treater will remain to assist with closure activities.”
The Metal Parts Treater will be used during the closure phase to decontaminate much of the equipment in the plant before it is sent off site, Lucier said. Activities in the MWS room will continue until the GB M55 rocket campaign begins. At that time, the focus will be for personnel to support the ramp-up period for the final destruction campaign at the Blue Grass plant.