The last chemical weapon in the declared U.S. chemical stockpile, an M55 rocket containing GB nerve agent, was destroyed at the Blue Grass Army Depot, or BGAD, July 7, 2023.
“This achievement is a final step toward the United States’ commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty – the safe and environmentally compliant elimination of weapons of mass destruction,” said Michael Abaie, program executive officer, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. “I congratulate everyone who worked to make this happen. This would not have been possible without the Blue Grass workforce and the community’s support of our program.”
“I’m most proud of the fact we asked the team to essentially run a marathon at a sprint’s pace, and be very safe and deliberate,” said Ron Hink, plant manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “It’s a big ask, for our workers to focus on this many campaigns, this long and do it with this kind of intensity, but they did it. It’s really remarkable work.”
“Destruction of the GB rockets not only marks the elimination of all chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Army Depot, but the destruction of all chemical weapons in the U.S. stockpile,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, site project manager, Blue Grass plant. “It is a historic moment not only for us in Kentucky, but the United States and across the world. With this last munition, the Chemical Weapons Convention mandate to eliminate all declared chemical weapons stockpiles is now globally achieved.”
Plant workers destroyed more than 101,000 rockets and projectiles throughout five munition destruction campaigns. A campaign refers to destruction of a particular type of chemical weapon. With destruction operations beginning in June 2019, the Kentucky workers destroyed more than 523 U.S. tons of chemical agent.
“Team BGAD has collaborated for decades to store, safeguard and ultimately destroy the last of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile,” said Col. Brett Ayvazian, BGAD commander. “What a great team accomplishment to have finally eradicated these weapons.”
Five different kinds of chemical agent-filled weapons were originally stored at the depot: 155mm projectiles containing mustard agent, 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent and M55 rockets containing GB nerve agent.
“I can’t thank the hard-working men and women and the community enough for staying committed to this goal every step of the way,” said Madison County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor, who also is co-chair of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board. “It’s a momentous achievement for the place where we live, work and raise our families.”
The accomplishment has been reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental organization that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives was responsible for eliminating the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by the treaty commitment date of Sept. 30, 2023.
Now that the entire stockpile in Kentucky has been destroyed, the Blue Grass plant will focus on the closure phase, which includes the disposal of all secondary wastes, including agent-contaminated rocket motor and drained warhead destruction. Plant closure also involves decontamination and decommissioning of facilities and equipment, disposition of property, demolition of certain facilities, and closure of government contracts and environmental permits in accordance with laws and regulations. The process could take three to four years.
The Blue Grass achievement comes just a few weeks after the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado completed destruction of the last of its chemical weapons on June 22. Pueblo and Blue Grass were the last of the nation’s stockpiles, which once consisted of more than 30,000 tons of chemical weapons.
The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (then designated an Agency) destroyed the initial 90%, which was stored at seven other sites across the U.S. and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific.