The mission of the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, known as PEO ACWA, was to oversee the safe and environmentally compliant destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado, completed in June 2023, and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, completed in July 2023. PEO ACWA is now responsible for the safe and environmentally compliant closure of the Pueblo and Blue Grass plants.
As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, the U.S. agreed to destroy all chemical weapons it owned or possessed. The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity destroyed nearly 90% of the original chemical weapons stockpile. PEO ACWA destroyed the remaining 10% of the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile by the CWC treaty commitment of Sept. 30, 2023. Watch the following video for more information about the program (this video portrays the PEO ACWA program prior to the July 7, 2023, completion of destruction of the declared U.S. stockpile of 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, an international treaty that calls upon all member nations to destroy their chemical weapons and production facilities. To comply with the treaty, the U.S. is destroying 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 stockpile could be destroyed.
In 1997, 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.
Upon ACWA’s successful demonstration of several alternative technologies from 1997 to 2000, legislation passed by Congress in 2003 (Public Law 107-248) assigned the ACWA program responsibility to safely destroy the remaining 10% of the U.S. chemical weapons 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 Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The PEO ACWA headquarters team oversees the activities at plants in Kentucky and Colorado, which completed the safe and environmentally sound destruction of the remaining declared U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.
Facility in Pueblo, Colorado
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or PCAPP, destroyed the chemical weapons stockpile at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, or PCD, in southeastern Colorado. The plant destroyed 2,613 U.S. tons of mustard agent that had been stored at PCD since the 1950s.
Facility near Richmond, Kentucky
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or BGCAPP, destroyed the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot, or BGAD, near Richmond, Kentucky. The plant destroyed 523 U.S. tons of nerve agents sarin (GB) and VX, and mustard agent that had been stored at BGAD since the 1940s.
Field Office in Alabama
The PEO ACWA Anniston Field Office 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.
When is the U.S. scheduled to complete its chemical weapons destruction?
The U.S. completed chemical weapons stockpile destruction on July 7, 2023, when the final round of the stockpile was destroyed at the Blue Grass site.
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 for the design, construction, systemization, operations and closure of BGCAPP near Richmond, Kentucky.
How were the chemical weapons destroyed?
Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant
Neutralization followed by biotreatment was used to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile in Colorado. The Static Detonation Chamber, an explosive destruction technology, was selected to augment the heavily automated facility and was used to destroy 4.2-inch mortar rounds and problematic chemical munitions that could not be easily destroyed in the main plant.
Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant
Neutralization was used to destroy the nerve agent stockpile in Kentucky. Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, technology was used to destroy the entire mustard agent stockpile, as well as two 3-gallon Department of Transportation bottles containing mustard agent. An SDC unit also augmented main plant destruction by destroying containerized, drained and undrained rocket warheads, rockets unsuitable for destruction in the main plant and overpacked munitions. The SDC units will continue to destroy containerized, drained agent-contaminated rocket warheads, considered secondary waste, during the plant’s closure stage.
Chemical Weapons Destruction
What are assembled chemical weapons?
Assembled chemical weapons are configured with fuzes, explosives, propellants, chemical agents, shipping and firing tubes and packaging materials. Examples include rockets and projectiles.
What types of chemical weapons were part of the stockpile located at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot and Blue Grass Army Depot?
The U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot originally stored 2,613 U.S. tons of mustard agents in projectiles and mortar rounds. In Kentucky, the Blue Grass Army Depot originally stored 523 U.S. tons of both nerve and mustard agents in rockets and projectiles. Destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile has concluded.
What are mustard (blister) agents?
Mustard (blister) agent, purified sulfur mustard or distilled mustard, has a 5% 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).
What are nerve agents?
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.
Nerve agent GB, also known as sarin, is one of the most toxic members of the organophosphate family. Under normal conditions, it is a clear to straw-colored liquid and has approximately the same density and evaporation rate as water. GB presents the greatest hazard when released in vapor form. Such vapors can be released only by evaporation of the liquid or vaporization into the air.
What is the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant?
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or BGCAPP, is a state-of-the-art facility that safely destroyed the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky, in July 2023. The stockpile originally consisted of three types of chemical weapons: 155mm projectiles, 8-inch projectiles and M55 rockets. The BGCAPP main plant used neutralization to destroy the nerve agent stockpile. Meanwhile, the site’s explosive destruction technology, the Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, was selected to destroy the entire mustard agent stockpile, as well as two 3-gallon Department of Transportation bottles containing mustard agent. An SDC unit was also used to destroy containerized, drained and undrained rocket warheads, rockets unsuitable for destruction in the main plant and overpacked munitions. The SDC units will continue to destroy containerized, drained agent-contaminated rocket warheads, considered secondary waste, during the plant’s closure stage.
What is the status of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant?
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant is expected to enter the closure phase once the necessary environmental permits are issued. The last munition in the chemical stockpile weapons stockpile in Colorado was destroyed in June 2023.
What is the status of the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant?
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, or BGCAPP, has completed destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile previously stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot and is expected to enter the closure stage once final operational activities are complete. The last munition in the chemical stockpile weapons stockpile in Kentucky was destroyed in July 2023. The Blue Grass Static Detonation Chambers will continue to operate to destroy remaining secondary waste.
How were the chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant destroyed?
During the neutralization process, munitions were taken apart and the chemical agent was mixed vigorously with hot water and sodium hydroxide, which destroyed or neutralized the agent. The resulting product, known as hydrolysate, was held and tested to ensure agent destruction before being shipped to an off-site treatment, storage and disposal facility for processing. Hydrolysate from decontamination activities will continue to be generated, tested and shipped during the plant’s closure stage.
Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, technology was selected to augment the neutralization process to destroy the entire mustard stockpile in Kentucky, much of which was unsuitable for destruction in the main plant. SDC units were also selected to augment the main plant in destroying containerized, drained and undrained rocket warheads, rockets unsuitable for destruction in the main plant and overpacked munitions from the stockpile. The SDC units will continue to destroy containerized, drained agent-contaminated rocket warheads, considered secondary waste, during the plant’s closure stage.
What are Explosive Destruction Technologies, and how do they relate to chemical weapons destruction?
Explosive Destruction Technologies, 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. There are three general types of explosive destruction technologies that can destroy chemical weapons: detonation technology, neutralization technology and thermal destruction.
In Colorado, Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, technology operated from 2022 to 2023, and an Explosive Destruction System, or EDS, operated from 2015 to 2018. These explosive destruction technologies augmented the main plant by using a chamber or vessel to detonate problematic munitions and neutralize the chemical agent.
In Kentucky, SDC technology was selected to destroy all of the mustard projectiles, as well as two 3-gallon Department of Transportation bottles containing mustard agent. Static Detonation Chamber units were also selected to process containerized, drained rocket warheads and overpacked munitions from the stockpile to augment main plant destruction in Kentucky.
What role does the Anniston Field Office have in the elimination of chemical weapons?
With its available Static Detonation Chamber, the Anniston Field Office, or AFO, allowed Blue Grass and Pueblo operators to be effectively trained while the Blue Grass and Pueblo plant’s Static Detonation Chamber units were 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 and non-contaminated rocket motors from the Blue Grass plant.
How is PEO ACWA involved with the communities surrounding the chemical depots in Colorado and Kentucky?
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 Richmond 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.
Public Law 102-484 required the Secretary of the Army to create Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commissions, or CACs.
The CAC provides a vital link between the community and the Department of Defense (DOD) by providing a forum for exchanging information about chemical weapons disposal efforts. It exists to represent community and state interests to the U.S. Army and DOD. Its mission is to provide a mechanism for the thorough and objective exchange of information among the citizens of Colorado and Kentucky, the Army and other organizations involved in the chemical weapons demilitarization program.
What is the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board?
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.
How do I apply for a position opening at a chemical weapons destruction plant?
The continued storage and destruction missions will take several years and require local workforces. PEO ACWA is committed to tapping into local businesses and workers to support the destruction of chemical weapons.
The safe elimination of chemical weapons at Pueblo and Blue Grass by Dec. 31, 2023.
What are the current public laws that affect PEO ACWA?
In 1996, Congress established the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, or 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, or PMCD, known today as the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity, and further stipulating that the ACWA program manager report directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
In 2003, legislation subsequently passed by Congress assigned responsibility to the ACWA program manager for the safe destruction of the remaining 10% of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile in Colorado and Kentucky. This responsibility includes pilot plant construction, operation, closure and the awarding of all associated contracts, thus dual-tracking the national chemical demilitarization mission between PMCD and ACWA.
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-116) and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 (Public Law 110-181) directed the Department of Defense to complete destruction of the entire national chemical weapons stockpile by the deadline established by the Chemical Weapons Convention (April 29, 2007), and in no circumstances later than Dec. 31, 2017. In 2016, the deadline for project completion was extended to Dec. 31, 2023 by Public Law 114-92.