Metal Parts Treater Boosting Safety, Efficiency During Blue Grass Closure

The first tray of projectiles enters the Metal Parts Treater during chemical weapons destruction operations in this January 2020 photograph from closed circuit television cameras.
The first tray of projectiles enters the Metal Parts Treater during chemical weapons destruction operations in this January 2020 photograph from closed circuit television cameras.

A tool that was important during the destruction of chemical weapons is proving just as valuable for safety and efficiency as workers decommission the Blue Grass main plant during the closure phase.

“We’re ahead of schedule and the Metal Parts Treater has played a big role,” said Dave Apodaca, closure manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “It’s helped reduce the number of entries workers are having to perform, put less stress on the team, greatly reduced lifting and allowed us to be more efficient. It adds up.”

Shortly after the last chemical weapons were destroyed in early July, workers began decontaminating and decommissioning equipment in the Munitions Demilitarization Building. Decommissioning means rendering equipment safe for removal and eventual demolition or follow-on use.

One plan called for workers to cut everything into small pieces, pack those in 55-gallon or 95-gallon drums and ship to a licensed treatment, storage and disposal facility in Texas for disposal. That would have required repetitive lifting and expensive transportation costs, Apodaca said.

Instead, workers, who continue to wear protective gear as they did during operations, use specialized tools to cut much of the machinery into larger pieces and load them into steel trays called Waste Inductive-Heating Containers, or WICs, Apodaca said.

Those WICs are fed to the Metal Parts Treater, or MPT, a large chamber heated by electrical induction coils to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure the metal meets all environmental standards for decontamination.

“The Metal Parts Treater played a key part during chemical weapons destruction, and it is clear this was the way to go during closure,” Apodaca said. “We’ve been able to get in a groove and do more and do it with less risk to the workers. It’s all a win.”

The equipment was used to process drained projectiles during the earlier VX and GB nerve agent campaigns. Once processed through the MPT, the metal is sent for recycling; without treatment, it would have been discarded as hazardous waste.

So far, workers have removed about 50,000 pounds of metal with about the same amount remaining, Apodaca said.

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