The Anniston Field Office, or AFO, located at the Anniston Army Depot, Alabama, is an element of the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, known as PEO ACWA. The AFO provides chemical agent and munitions destruction managerial oversight and technical support of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile located at the Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky. The AFO leads engineering development, design evaluation, contracting coordination, and system testing efforts to improve the current processing systems at the Blue Grass facility in order to meet treaty and public law imperatives.
The Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, known as ANCDF, completed chemical demilitarization operations in 2011. At the completion of the ANCDF mission, most facilities were dismantled, with the exception of the Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC. The SDC was clean-closed for chemical agent, a process which ensures no chemical agent remains in the entire system. The Anniston SDC unit currently provides a dedicated, efficient source for explosives and energetics disposal, as well as opportunities for additional non-chemical agent waste disposal research and investigation.
How Does the AFO Support Chemical Weapons Destruction in Kentucky? And How Did the AFO Support Chemical Weapons Destruction Operations in Colorado?
The chemical weapons stockpile formerly located at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, Colorado, consisted of more than 2,600 U.S. tons of mustard agent in projectiles and mortar rounds. Explosive components removed from munitions at the Pueblo plant were monitored for mustard agent and shipped to the Anniston SDC for destruction after they are determined to be non-contaminated. The AFO led engineering development and testing to enhance processing systems for the Pueblo facility. In this photograph, AFO workers open a tube containing energetics prior to placing them into the destruction process.
The chemical weapons stockpile located in Kentucky originally contained more than 500 U.S. tons of mustard and nerve agent in rockets and artillery projectiles. The Anniston SDC is processing non-contaminated motors separated from VX and GB nerve agent-filled rockets during the Blue Grass rocket destruction campaigns. The AFO also led the engineering development of improved processing systems and testing for the Blue Grass facility. Here, an AFO worker binds spring-loaded fins on a rocket motor to prevent them from deploying during processing.
The expert staff at the AFO also provides technical evaluation and support for both sites, both during operations and for their upcoming closure phases.
How Does SDC Technology Work?
The SDC uses thermal destruction technology to process the non-agent-contaminated munitions components from PCAPP and rocket motors from BGCAPP, removed from the munitions at the facilities during their destruction processes and delivered to the AFO for final destruction. Those components are placed into feed boxes, conveyed to the top of the SDC vessel and fed into the electrically heated detonation chamber. The high heat (approximately 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit) thermally destroys the components. Gases generated as a result of the process are treated by an off-gas treatment system that includes a thermal oxidizer, scrubbers and a carbon filter system. All waste streams generated are screened and remaining scrap metal is decontaminated to be recycled.
Similar to the chemical agent destruction facilities, the AFO SDC facility will also undergo a closure process when its current mission concludes. No chemical agent was introduced into this destruction process, so decontamination will not be required. The Anniston SDC unit is being considered for conventional munitions destruction but that decision has yet to be made.