Experts preparing the Static Detonation Chamber 2000 at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant concluded an important test in early November, preparing for its use destroying nerve agent by effectively destroying surrogate chemicals, according to preliminary results.
“This was the next step in demonstrating the system is capable of safely destroying nerve-agent filled rockets,” said Dave Webb, Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) plant manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “Successful destruction of the surrogate chemical, napthalene, which is more difficult to destroy than the nerve agent, shows the system can readily handle nerve agent destruction.”
The chemical napthalene is a common industrial chemical, and the system was also tested with monochlorobenzine, a solvent, as the surrogate for the polychlorinated biphenyls that are in the shipping and firing tubes containing the rockets. Webb said the surrogate test is important for several reasons, one of which is this will be the first time nerve agent will be destroyed in an SDC.
“While SDC units have been effectively used at the Blue Grass plant and elsewhere for other items and substances, such as mustard agent, this system must be proven to be able to effectively destroy nerve agent,” Webb said. “This test proved the system can destroy the agent to at least ‘six nines,’ or 99.9999% efficiency. The results from this test will also support the maximum feed rate we will use during operations.”
As with chemical weapons destruction, worker safety is paramount during systems testing, said Webb. Pre-measured and packaged surrogate chemicals were used so the workers would not have to measure and package them for the test, and all operational plans and procedures were followed during the test. Final test results are expected in December.
Program officials said SDC 2000 should begin operations in late December by destroying containerized rocket warheads separated from their motors and drained of their chemical agent in the main plant. The unit will also destroy complete, overpacked rockets.