Operators began destroying rocket warheads drained of GB nerve agent using a new piece of equipment, the Static Detonation Chamber 2000, at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Jan. 27.
“We chose the SDC 2000 to augment destruction operations in the main plant because it enhances worker safety in the processing of higher-risk munitions,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, Blue Grass plant site project manager. “It also supports the United States’ obligation to fulfill the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty commitment to destroy our chemical weapons by September 2023.”
The SDC 2000 will destroy M55 rockets that have leaked in the past and been placed in overpacked containers, as well as M55 rockets found unsuitable for processing in the main plant and problematic undrained rocket warheads. The system will also be used to destroy the containerized, drained rocket warheads, which are considered secondary waste.
“As the demilitarization effort continues its final campaign, yet another asset is starting up to provide the needed capability to destroy the Kentucky stockpile,” said Craig Williams, co-chair, Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board. “This technology will provide the capability to deal with problem rounds in the safest and most environmentally protective manner. It is another positive step towards completing this critical effort.”
Chemical weapons destruction operations began at the Blue Grass plant on June 7, 2019. The GB nerve agent M55 rockets are the last of five different munitions stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot to be destroyed. Those rockets made up more than 50% of the original stockpile stored in Kentucky.
Overall, trained operators have overseen the safe destruction of 359.3 U.S. tons of chemical agent as of Jan. 20. A total of 164 U.S. tons of chemical agent remains to be destroyed in Kentucky.
The Blue Grass plant is on target to complete destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile by the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty commitment of Sept. 30, 2023. U.S. public law mandates stockpile destruction by Dec. 31, 2023. After chemical weapons destruction operations are completed, the closure phase will continue for an additional three to four years. The depot will continue its conventional weapons missions beyond the plant’s closure phase.