In four months, a Bechtel-led team has managed to destroy approximately 60 tons of VX nerve agent contained in 155-millimeter artillery projectiles, pulling the United States closer to an international chemical weapons reduction goal.
“This is an important milestone for the team,” Ron Hink, project manager, said. “Completing this mission has international significance, and our team is committed to doing it safely and on time. “This team has again proven its dedication to completing this important mission. In just over four months, and working through a global pandemic, the team successfully and safely completed the destruction campaign.”
After beginning the VX campaign on Jan. 10, 2021, the team opened and drained the projectiles robotically. They then began the process of neutralizing the drained toxins through a mix of hot water and sodium hydroxide, as well as heating the metal parts of the weapons to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for decontamination and safe recycling.
Such work is an extension of the international Chemical Weapons Convention, which seeks to eliminate chemical weapons. More than 190 nations — including the United States — have agreed to help. After beginning work in June 2019, the joint U.S.-Bechtel team believes it can safely eradicate the U.S. stockpile by 2023.
Destruction was undertaken at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Ky. This main plant has now destroyed the remaining stockpile of eight-inch nerve agent projectiles, eliminating an entire class of these chemical weapons from the U.S. stockpile. Once work finishes on the 155-millimeter projectiles, the plant will move on to eradicating M55 rockets. After all work has finished, the facility will be closed, dismantled, decontaminated, and removed.