With the completion of VX nerve-agent M55 rocket destruction April 19, the Blue Grass plant has shifted into a three-month changeover period to prepare the facility for GB rocket destruction.
“Changeover is getting the building, equipment, processes and people ready to destroy GB nerve agent,” said Chris VanDall, changeover manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “It is truly a team effort, with people from many disciplines participating to get us ready for the destruction of the last nerve agent in the U.S. stockpile.”
One important effort during this time will be changing the air monitoring equipment from detecting VX to detecting GB, VanDall said. Additionally, areas of the plant will undergo decontamination and agent processing equipment will need to be flushed and cleared for the different agent type. Minor modifications will also be made to increase efficiency, building on lessons learned from the VX rocket destruction process and from the processing of GB nerve agent during projectile destruction in 2020.
“Good preparation makes for good execution,” VanDall said. “As this is the last nerve agent in the U.S. stockpile, this is the last time anyone in the U.S. will be destroying nerve agent. The bottom line is we will be doing it safely and in an environmentally compliant manner.”
Once the changeover is complete, the plant will begin destroying the GB rockets. Rocket warheads, drained and containerized in the main plant, will be processed in a Blue Grass Static Detonation Chamber unit as secondary waste. Chemical munitions destruction operations are scheduled to conclude by the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty commitment of Sept. 30, 2023. U.S. public law mandates stockpile destruction by Dec. 31, 2023.