The former chemical weapons destruction site in Anniston, Alabama, is assisting the Blue Grass destruction effort by destroying non-contaminated rocket motors in a Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, unit.
“We were the first SDC in use in the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile destruction program,” said Tim Garrett, Director of Field Operations, Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. “After our destruction mission ended, we realized we could help expedite the destruction program by processing explosive materiel from the Kentucky and Colorado plants.”
In the Kentucky M55 rocket destruction process, the non-contaminated motors are physically separated from the nerve-agent filled warheads, which are destroyed in the main plant. The motors are then crated, monitored for chemical agent and delivered to the Anniston site for processing. While the Anniston main destruction facility has long been demolished, the SDC was retained for conventional-munition and secondary-waste destruction.
“Our workforce has chemical demilitarization experience and years of familiarity with the SDC,” Garrett said. “I feel we are a great asset to the program, by helping these plants get to mission complete.”
At Anniston, the rocket motors are uncrated and removed from their shipping and firing tubes using specially designed equipment that pushes the rocket out of the tube and allows an operator to bind the spring-loaded fins before they deploy. This process enhances efficiency and worker safety, Garrett said. The shipping and firing tubes are sent to a hazardous-waste landfill and the motors are loaded into the SDC for thermal destruction at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any metal from the process is considered clean by U.S. Army standards and sent for recycling.
“We began rocket-motor destruction March 29 with a ramp-up period to ensure everything worked as planned,” Garrett said. “The SDC performed as expected. Our current destruction rate is about five to six motors per hour, with six being our maximum rate.”
The Anniston SDC is also destroying energetics from the Colorado chemical munitions destruction mission.