Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) is a chemical weapons destruction facility undergoing systemization, or testing. The plant will destroy the chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD), near Richmond, Kentucky. The plant is dedicated to the destruction of 523 short tons (474 t) of nerve agents sarin (GB) and VX, and mustard agent, which constitute about two percent of the United States chemical weapons stockpile.
Since 1944, the U.S. Army has stored approximately two percent of its original chemical weapons stockpile at BGAD. Destruction of this stockpile is a requirement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty to which the United States is a party. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention and monitors the progress of the nation's chemical weapons destruction programs. The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) oversees the destruction of the Blue Grass chemical weapons stockpile.
Planning and organization
A systems contract was awarded in June 2003 to a joint venture team composed of the California companies Bechtel National, Inc., and Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group, Inc. The Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass team is contracted to develop a design-build plan and then design, construct, systemize, pilot test, operate and close the BGCAPP.
In March 2005 the design-build-operate-close schedule was extended to make the program more affordable on an annual basis. Site preparation work and the construction of support buildings continued and final designs for the remaining BGCAPP facilities were completed in 2010. After systemization of the facility, destruction operations are expected to begin in 2020 and to be complete by 2023. The plant will operate until all the chemical weapons have been destroyed. Closure activities (shut-down, dismantling, and restoration of site) are slated to be wrapped up by 2026. This schedule exceeds the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2007 (Public Laws 110-116 and 110-181) mandates the destruction of the remaining U.S. national chemical stockpile in accordance with the April 2012 date, but in no circumstances later than Dec. 31, 2017. This deadline was subsequently extended to Dec. 31, 2023, by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92).
History of chemical demilitarization in Kentucky
The Department of Defense conducted studies to evaluate potential impacts of the elimination of these weapons using incineration and non-incineration methods for the plant. Four technologies were considered:
- chemical neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO)
- chemical neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation and gas phase chemical reduction
- electrochemical oxidation
The Department of Defense selected neutralization followed by SCWO for use at the depot. The method comprises the following steps:
- Munitions are disassembled by modified reverse assembly.
- The chemical agent and energetics are separated. Agent and energetics are chemically mixed with caustic or water to destroy the chemical agent using hydrolysis. The resulting chemical compounds are known as hydrolysates.
- Hydrolysates are held and tested to ensure agent destruction before proceeding to secondary treatment.
- The agent and energetic hydrolysates are fed to the SCWO units to destroy the organic materials. SCWO subjects the hydrolysate to very high temperatures and pressures, breaking them down into carbon dioxide, water and salts.
- Metal parts are thermally decontaminated by heating them to 1,000 °F (538 °C) for a minimum of 15 minutes. The metal parts can then be safely recycled.
- Gas effluents are filtered through a series of HEPA and carbon filters before being released to the atmosphere. Water is recycled into the pilot plant facility and reused as part of the destruction process.
Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT)
After an X-ray assessment of the mustard munitions stockpile showed that the agent had significantly solidified in the rounds—making removal of mustard agent from projectiles difficult using neutralization and SCWO—ACWA decided to explore use of Explosive Destruction Technology (aka Explosive Demolition Technology, Explosive Detonation Technology, EDT) for these projectiles.
EDT uses heat/pressure from explosion or just heat to destroy the munitions; it is not considered incineration and does not require disassembly of the weapons. There are three general types of technologies that can destroy chemical weapons:
- Detonation Technology – destroys the majority of the agent and explosive in the munition by detonating donor explosives wrapped around the munition. The resulting off-gasses are processed through secondary treatment to ensure agent destruction. Examples of detonation technology include the Transportable Detonation Chamber, or TDC, and the DAVINCH (Detonation of Ammunition in a Vacuum-Integrated Chamber).
- Neutralization Technology – uses small explosive shaped charges to open the munition and consume the explosive in the burster and fuze. The agent is destroyed by subsequent neutralization. The U.S. Army's Explosive Destruction System, or EDS, is an example.
- Thermal Destruction – uses the heat of the electrically heated containment vessel to deflagrate the munition and destroy the agent and energetics. The resulting gases are treated in an off-gas treatment system. The Static Detonation Chamber, or SDC, is an example of thermal destruction technology.
Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass received approval from PEO ACWA to begin initial work on an Explosive Destruction Technology system at the Blue Grass plant. Following a competitive procurement process, Bechtel Parsons selected the Static Detonation Chamber.
In June 2015, the SDC completed Factory Acceptance Testing at the Dynasafe workshop in Kristinehamn, Sweden. The SDC was assembled and installed in 2016.
The Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office was established to serve as the community's primary information resource on chemical weapons destruction in Kentucky. The office responds to inquiries, provides information materials and coordinates guest speakers for a variety of different civic groups and organizations and interfaces with the governor-appointed Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens' Advisory Commission and its Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board.
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- Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. "Frequently Asked Questions". peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- "National Defense Authorization At for Fiscal Year 2016" (PDF). gpo.gov. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
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- "Public Law 107-248" (PDF). www.congress.gov. October 23, 2002. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Public Law 110-116" (PDF). www.congress.gov. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Public Law 110-181" (PDF). www.congress.gov. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Design of chemical weapons destruction facility concludes". Richmond Register. August 2, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
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- U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency. "U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency: Project Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel: X-Ray Assessment of 155mm Mustard Projectiles Stored at Blue Grass Army Chemical Activity, Richmond, Kentucky" (PDF). peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- Front Matter | Assessment of Explosive Destruction Technologies for Specific Munitions at the Blue Grass and Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plants | The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/12482.
- "Facts: Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) | Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Retrieved April 3, 2017.
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- Council, National Research (2006-07-12). Letter Report of Review and Assessment of the Proposals for Design and Operation of Designated Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plants (DCAPP-Blue Grass).
- "Facts: Chemical Weapons Destruction at Blue Grass | Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- "Explosive Destruction System Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". www.peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (2013). "How the Static Detonation Chamber Will Augment the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant" (PDF). peoacwa.army.mil. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- The National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (2010). "Review of the Design of the Dynasafe Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) System for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility". nap.edu. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
- "Facts: Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office | Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA)". Retrieved 2017-04-03.
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- "The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA) - Kentucky". U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity. 2004-07-28. Retrieved September 17, 2006.
- ^ "ACWA - Blue Grass - Chemical Weapons Disposal:". Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Program. United States Department of Defense. 2006-07-25. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
- Centers for Disease Control, Chemical Demilitarization
- Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (Kentucky)
- U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity
- Blue Grass Army Depot website