Chemical Agent Disposal

The Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) is focused on keeping the citizens of central Kentucky safe as Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) disposes of its chemical weapons stockpile. After Congress directed the Army to destroy its entire stockpile of chemical weapons, the Army’s original plan was to destroy the stockpile at the Blue Grass Army Depot by constructing an incineration facility. However, in response to public concerns regarding incineration, Congress mandated the Army and Department of Defense evaluate the effectiveness of alternative destruction technologies.

After a comprehensive evaluation process, the Department of Defense selected neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) as the method of destruction. During the neutralization process, munitions are disassembled using modified reverse assembly. After the agent and energetics are separated, they are chemically decomposed and neutralized by caustic or water hydrolysis. The resulting chemical compounds are known as “hydrolysates.” The agent hydrolysate and energetics hydrolysate are destroyed using SCWO units (for a closer look at one of these machines, the Energetics Batch Hydrolyzer, visit the EBH facts page).

The SCWO process subjects the hydrolysates to very high temperature and pressure, breaking them down into carbon dioxide, water and salts. Metal parts are thermally decontaminated in a heated discharge conveyor. Dunnage, or materials such as the wooden pallets upon which the weapons are stored, are destroyed in the SCWO process. Solid effluents are recycled or tested prior to disposal in permitted landfills. Gas effluents are recycled or filtered and monitored before release into the atmosphere.

Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass is the systems contractor that has designed, is constructing and will systemize, pilot test, operate and close the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. The plant is nearly 100% complete as of April, 2017.

About BGAD

The Blue Grass Army Depot is one of two Army installations in the United States that currently stores chemical weapons. Located near Richmond, Ky., BGAD, a subordinate installation of the Joint Munitions Command, encompasses approximately 14,600 acres, composed mainly of open fields and wooded areas. The depot is primarily involved with industrial and related activities associated with the storage and maintenance of conventional and chemical munitions.

The Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA), a tenant organization of the depot that reports to the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA), is responsible for the safe, secure storage of the chemical weapons stockpile stored at the depot. The stockpile contains 523 tons of nerve agents (GB and VX) and mustard agent in projectiles, warheads, and rockets.

The U.S. Army Element, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, known as ACWA, is the Department of Defense program responsible for the destruction of chemical weapons in Kentucky. Working in partnership with the community, the technology known as neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) was selected in 2003 to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile.

Here are Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the neutralization process.

This video from the ACWA provides an overview of the chemical agent destruction plant:

This video provides details on how the plant’s machinery will process M55 rockets and their nerve agent payloads:

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