Teams from the Bechtel Corporation at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) near Richmond, Ky., have begun purging another batch of chemical weapons, continuing a campaign that intends to destroy nearly 18,000 rockets bearing the VX nerve agent.
The latest round begins a mere two months after the plant’s previous campaign, which has been working its way through the chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot. That depot contained 523 tons of nerve and mustard agent within a series of rockets and projectiles. As of this month, the destruction campaign has helped remove more than 28.5 percent of that stockpile.
“Our team has successfully completed two projectile campaigns involving nerve agent,” Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager, said. “As with previous campaigns, safety will remain the top priority as we begin rocket destruction.”Automated equipment will disassemble the rockets and drain the nerve agent. The agent will be neutralized using hot water and sodium hydroxide, producing hydrolysate. Following confirmation the agent is destroyed, the hydrolysate will be pumped to holding tanks to be processed later at an off-site disposal facility.”
The previous campaign ended in May, after the destruction of 155-millimeter projectiles. Work did not halt even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, though. Last year, the plant obliterated projectiles containing the GB nerve agent through a Static Detonation Chamber. The campaign is expected to continue through this summer.
Once operations are complete, the BGCAPP will be closed, and its equipment systematically taken apart, decontaminated, and removed.