Static Detonation Chamber

Explosive Destruction Technology Overview

The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or BGCAPP, safely and efficiently destroyed the chemical weapons stockpile previously stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot. A majority of the chemical weapons were destroyed using neutralization. However, the use of an explosive destruction technology (EDT) was necessary to destroy a portion of the inventory of chemical munitions that presented a problem to process in the main plant. The EDT chosen to augment the main plant was the Static Detonation Chamber (SDC).

A 2011 X-ray assessment of the Blue Grass chemical weapons stockpile confirmed the solidification of mustard agent in a significant number of 155mm mustard projectiles, rendering them unsuitable for automated processing in the main plant. These problematic munitions, together with some 200 mustard projectiles that leaked in the past and were overpacked, required a different technological approach for their destruction. To resolve this issue, an SDC was used to destroy all of the approximately 15,000 mustard projectiles, as well as two 3-gallon Department of Transportation bottles containing mustard agent. This SDC, now known as the SDC 1200, began destruction of drained rocket warheads, considered agent-contaminated secondary waste, Oct. 25, 2023.

In 2019, due to worker safety concerns, a decision was made to no longer use the Energetics Neutralization System to process M55 rocket warheads from which the nerve agent had been drained. Instead, these containerized, drained warheads, as well as undrained warheads, rockets unsuitable for processing in the main plant and overpacked rockets were destroyed in a larger SDC 2000, which began operating in January 2023. The SDC 2000 continues to destroy agent-contaminated secondary waste during the plant’s closure phase as well.

How the Static Detonation Chamber Works

The SDC used thermal destruction technology to process the weapons. Chemical munitions were placed in a feed box, conveyed to the top of the SDC vessel and fed into the electrically heated detonation chamber. The high heat (approximately 600 degrees Celsius or 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit) deflagrated or detonated the munition, and the chemical agents and energetics were destroyed by thermal decomposition.

The same process is being followed for the containerized, drained rocket warheads, considered agent-contaminated secondary waste, being destroyed at the plant. Residual chemical agent will be destroyed by thermal decomposition.

Gases generated from the process are treated by an off-gas system that includes a thermal oxidizer, scrubbers and a carbon filter system. All waste streams generated at the SDC 1200 and SDC 2000 facilities are screened for decontamination.


Step 1

Step 1

A robotic arm places the drained rocket warheads or overpacks in a feed box. The system allows for minimal handling of munitions by workers.

Step 2

Step 2

Munition components or overpacks are conveyed to the top of the vessel.

Step 2 (cont.)

Step 2 (cont.)

For added safety, a fully automatic, double air-lock feeding conveyor system is used.

Step 3

Step 3

The loading chamber rotates, and the munitions components or overpacks are fed into an electrically heated detonation chamber.

Step 3 (cont.)

Step 3 (cont.)

Chamber temperature is maintained above critical temperature of energetics inside the munitions.

Step 4

Step 4

High heat detonates/deflagrates munitions and the residual chemical agent and the energetics are destroyed by explosion/thermal decomposition. The off gases are treated by an air pollution control system.

Static Detonation Chamber 1200

The SDC 1200 was originally selected as the EDT to destroy the 155mm projectiles containing mustard agent, as well as two 3-gallon Department of Transportation bottles containing mustard agent. Upon completion of the mustard projectile campaign, the facility underwent upgrades to the off-gas treatment system and is supporting the destruction of containerized, drained rocket warheads, considered agent-contaminated secondary waste.

Static Detonation Chamber 2000

The SDC 2000 is a larger unit that destroyed drained and undrained rocket warheads, rockets unsuitable for processing in the main plant and overpacked rockets. During closure, the unit is destroying containerized, drained rocket warheads which contain residual amounts of GB nerve agent.

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