The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, known as PEO ACWA, is responsible for the safe and environmentally compliant destruction of the chemical weapons stockpiles stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the United States has destroyed nearly 90 percent of its original chemical weapons stockpiles, which was successfully completed by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity in January 2012. PEO ACWA is responsible for destruction of the remaining 10 percent of the nation’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Watch the following video for more information about the program:
Congress established the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment program, known as ACWA, under Public Law 104-208 to identify and demonstrate at least two technologies as alternatives to incineration for the destruction of assembled chemical weapons.
In the 1980s, the rise of international concern regarding the effects of chemical warfare led to the decision by Congress to direct the Army to destroy all U.S. chemical weapons. This was reinforced by a presidential directive and the U.S. ratification in 1997 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty that calls upon all member nations to destroy their chemical weapons and production facilities. To comply with the CWC, the United States will destroy its remaining chemical weapons.
Initially, incineration was the only proven destruction technology in the U.S. to destroy chemical weapons; however, environmental and community concerns led to discussions around alternative means by which the stockpiles could be destroyed.
Upon ACWA’s successful demonstration of several alternative technologies from 1997 to 2000, legislation passed by Congress in 2002 (Public Law 107-248) assigned responsibility to the ACWA program manager for the safe destruction of the remaining 10 percent of the U.S. stockpile located in Colorado and Kentucky. ACWA’s expanded mission resulted in a redesignation from “Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment” to “Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives” in June 2003.
PEO ACWA is headquartered at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The PEO ACWA headquarters team oversees the two pilot plants in Kentucky and Colorado, which have been built to carry out the safe and environmentally sound destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or PCAPP, is destroying the chemical weapons stockpile at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, in southeastern Colorado. Since the 1950s, the depot has stored munitions containing 2,613 tons of mustard agent that are part of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or BGCAPP, will destroy the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky. The plant is dedicated to the destruction of 523 tons of nerve agents sarin (GB) and VX, and blister agent mustard.
The PEO ACWA Anniston Field Office, or AFO, was established in 2014 to preserve the technical expertise of the former Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility staff and to leverage Anniston’s Static Detonation Chamber during chemical weapons destruction in Colorado and Kentucky.
In Colorado, destruction of chemical agent munitions at the Pueblo plant began Sept. 7, 2016 and is expected to be complete in 2023. In Kentucky, Blue Grass plant construction is complete with systemization currently underway. The plant is scheduled to become operational in 2019 and complete destruction operations in 2023.
PEO ACWA is aligned under the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center. This designation provides PEO ACWA with the necessary support and resources as an Army organization under the direct command and control of the Department of Defense. The Program Executive Officer reports directly to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Threat Reduction and Arms Control), under the umbrella of the Department’s Chemical Demilitarization Program as mandated by Congress in Public Law 105-261.
PEO ACWA is managed by a Program Executive Officer (PEO) who leads a team to carry out the mission of the safe and environmentally sound destruction of the chemical weapons stockpiles. The PEO is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the program, including operations at Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) in Colorado, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) in Kentucky and PEO ACWA’s Anniston Field Office in Alabama.
To learn more, visit the Program Management Biographies page.
In 2002, the Bechtel Pueblo Team was awarded the systems contract to design, construct, systemize, pilot test, operate and close PCAPP in Pueblo, Colorado. In 2003, the Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass Team was awarded the systems contract to facilitate all project stages at BGCAPP near Richmond, Kentucky.
Neutralization followed by biotreatment is being used to destroy the Pueblo chemical weapons stockpile. The Explosive Destruction System, an Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT), augments the heavily automated facility and is used to destroy problematic chemical munitions that cannot be easily processed through the main plant.
Neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation will be used to destroy the nerve agent stockpile. The Static Detonation Chamber, an EDT, will be used to destroy the mustard agent stockpile.
Assembled chemical weapons are configured with fuzes, explosives, propellant, chemical agents, shipping and firing tubes and packaging materials. Examples include rockets and projectiles.
Mustard (blister) agent, purified sulfur mustard or distilled mustard, has a five percent sulfur impurity, less odor and greater blistering power than the original mustard agent used in World War I. Mustard agent is also known as H, HD or HT. Exposure to mustard agent causes inflammation of the eyes, nose, throat, trachea, bronchi and lung tissue, and blisters the skin. In amounts approaching the lethal dose, injury to bone marrow, lymph nodes and spleen may occur. Mustard agent is toxic and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has deemed it a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
To learn more, visit the Facts: Characteristics of Mustard (Blister) Agents page.
There are two types of nerve agents currently stored in the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile: VX and GB. Nerve agent VX, a clear, odorless and tasteless liquid, has an appearance similar to motor oil. VX can become an aerosol (very small droplets) through explosion or a vapor through ignition. It is heavier than water and evaporates 2,000 times more slowly. Highly toxic in its liquid, aerosol and vapor forms, VX is the most hazardous when absorbed through the skin.
To learn more, visit the Facts: Characteristics of Nerve Agents page.
Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) is a state-of-the-art facility that is safely destroying the chemical weapons stockpile at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colorado. There are three types of chemical weapons stored there: 155mm projectiles, 105mm projectiles and 4.2-in. projectiles. PCAPP will use neutralization followed by biotreatment to destroy the stockpile. The Explosive Destruction System (EDS) is used to destroy problematic chemical munitions that cannot be easily processed through the main plant. Watch this video for a quick explanation of PCAPP’s mission and technology:
Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) is a full-scale pilot plant designed and constructed to safely destroy the chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky. The depot stores three types of chemical weapons: 155mm projectiles, 8-in. projectiles and M55 rockets. BGCAPP will use neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation, or SCWO, to destroy the nerve agent stockpile. Meanwhile, the site’s Explosive Destruction Technology, the Static Detonation Chamber, will destroy the mustard agent stockpile. Watch this video for a quick explanation of BGCAPP’s mission and technology:
Destruction of chemical agent munitions at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) began Sept. 7, 2016 and is expected to be complete in 2023. Construction of the facility was officially declared complete on Dec. 12, 2012. The Explosive Destruction System (EDS) augments the heavily automated facility and is used to destroy problematic chemical munitions that cannot be easily processed through the main plant. The first EDS campaign lasted from March 18, 2015 to Feb. 11, 2016 and resulted in the destruction of 560 items containing mustard agent.
To learn more, visit the PCAPP Project Stages page and the Facts: Chemical Weapons Destruction at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot page.
Construction of the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) was completed in October 2015. The project is in the systemization phase, which includes the planning, technical work and testing activities required to ensure the plant is ready for destruction operations. Destruction operations at the Blue Grass plant are scheduled to begin in 2019 and end in 2023. The Static Detonation Chamber, which will augment the pilot plant to destroy the mustard munitions, is currently undergoing pre-systemization activities.
Neutralization followed by biotreatment uses hot water to neutralize the chemical agent, effectively destroying the mustard agent molecules. The resulting product, hydrolysate, is mostly water and thiodiglycol, a common industrial chemical that is readily biodegradable. Ordinary sewage treatment bacteria, or microbes, consume the organics in the hydrolysate. Besides being a common phenomenon in nature, the science of using microbes to help dispose of hazardous waste has existed for decades. Sewage treatment facilities across the country use microbes every day to help break down raw sewage.
To learn more, visit the Neutralization Followed by Biotreatment page.
The Explosive Destruction System (EDS) augments the baseline technology to destroy problematic chemical munitions that cannot be easily processed through the main plant. The EDS is housed inside an Environmental Enclosure with an air filtration system. The system’s stainless-steel vessel has thick walls that not only contain all the blast, vapor and fragments from the process, but also reduce the noise levels such that they don’t carry beyond the enclosure. During each process, experienced EDS operators attach cutting charges to each munition. Once the munitions, up to six at a time, are sealed inside the chamber, the charges are detonated, opening each munition so the agent can be neutralized, while also eliminating the explosive components in the munitions. Watch the following video to learn more about how the EDS works:
During the neutralization process, munitions will be taken apart and the chemical agent will be drained and separated from the energetics, which include explosives and propellants. The chemical agent is then mixed vigorously with hot water and sodium hydroxide, which destroys or neutralizes it. The energetics are neutralized in a similar process. The resulting products, known as hydrolysates, are held and tested to ensure agent destruction before proceeding to secondary treatment. The hydrolysates are fed to the supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) units to destroy the organic material. SCWO subjects the hydrolysates to very high temperatures and pressures, breaking them down into carbon dioxide, water and salts. Watch the following video to learn more about supercritical fluid and the technology used to destroy weapons at Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP):
The Static Detonation Chamber will augment BGCAPP’s neutralization/ supercritical water oxidation technology to destroy approximately 15,000 155mm mustard projectiles in the Blue Grass stockpile, many of which have been found unsuited for processing through the main plant. Watch the following video to learn more about the Static Detonation Chamber technology used to destroy chemical weapons at BGCAPP:
Explosive Destruction Technologies, or EDT, are used to supplement destruction at the main plants, and use explosive charges or heat to destroy chemical weapons. They do not require disassembly of the munitions, nor are they considered incineration. There are three general types of explosive destruction technologies that can destroy chemical weapons: detonation technology, neutralization technology and thermal destruction.
The Pueblo plant uses the U.S. Army’s Explosive Destruction System, which became operational in 2015.
To learn more, visit the Explosive Destruction System page.
The Blue Grass plant uses the Static Detonation Chamber, which will augment the main plant in the destruction of approximately 15,000 155mm mustard projectiles.
To learn more, visit the Static Detonation Chamber page.
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) and Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) comply with a number of safety standards set forth by the Department of Defense, U.S. Army, Army Materiel Command, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more. Additionally, each site has been recognized as an Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Status. The VPP recognizes employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) and Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) must adhere to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, which gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to control hazardous waste, including generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste to protect human health and the environment. Furthermore, both plants comply with all permit regulations in accordance with the state of Colorado and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
With its available Static Detonation Chamber, the Anniston Field Office (AFO) will allow Blue Grass operators to be effectively trained while the Blue Grass plant’s Static Detonation Chamber is being installed and tested, saving both time and money. AFO is also handling the disposition of the Pueblo plant’s non-contaminated explosive components of some 780,000 artillery and mortar rounds. Watch this video about the Anniston Field Office to learn more:
The public’s input and involvement is a cornerstone of the ACWA program. PEO ACWA and community members at both sites play an active role in the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission, and the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission and its subcommittee, the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board. View the following video to find out more:
The Pueblo and Blue Grass stockpile communities are each home to a public outreach office specifically established to support the program’s commitment to transparency. The offices act as information hubs that proactively provide the public with the latest news and information about ACWA’s chemical weapons destruction program.
To learn more and get involved in the Pueblo area, visit the PCAPP Public Involvement page.
To learn more and get involved in Richmond area, visit the BGCAPP Public Involvement page.
Public Law 102-484 required the Secretary of the Army to create Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commissions, or CACs.
To learn more, visit the Facts: Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission Legislation page.
The Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, or CDCAB, is an independent sub-committee of the Kentucky Citizens’ Advisory Commission and is made up of a diverse group of community leaders who represent the local community on issues regarding Kentucky’s chemical weapons disposal program. With input from many interested parties, the board’s primary objective is to share information with the community and provide input to government decision-makers.
The continued storage and disposal missions will take several years and require local workforces. PEO ACWA is committed to tapping into local businesses and workers to support the disposal of chemical weapons.
For more information on how to apply for position openings, visit the Jobs and Business Opportunities page.
Destroy Chemical Weapons Stockpile
In 1996, Congress established the PEO ACWA program under Public Law 104-208 to identify and demonstrate at least two technologies as alternatives to incineration for the destruction of assembled chemical weapons.
In its initial 1996 law, and again in follow-on legislation two years later, Public Law 105-261 directed that the ACWA program would be conducted independently from the Army’s chemical demilitarization effort under the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD – later becoming the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity), and further stipulated that the ACWA program manager report directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
In 2002, legislation subsequently passed by Congress assigned responsibility to the ACWA program manager for the safe destruction of both the Colorado and Kentucky chemical weapons stockpiles, to include pilot plant construction, operation, closure and the awarding of all associated contracts, thus dual-tracking the national chemical demilitarization mission between PMCD and ACWA.
Part of the Chemical Materials Activity’s (CMA) mission is to protect and safely store the chemical weapons stockpiles in Colorado and Kentucky while ensuring emergency preparedness, and to effectively recover, assess and treat non-stockpiled chemical weapons. CMA and PEO ACWA are co-located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, but have separate reporting chains, with PEO ACWA aligned under the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center and under the direct command and control of the Department of Defense, and CMA aligned as a separate reporting activity of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. Despite these differences, PEO ACWA and CMA retain a mutually supportive relationship and share the same commitment to total U.S. chemical stockpile destruction.
There are several ways to get in touch with the ACWA program.