First nerve agent rockets destroyed at Blue Grass Army Depot

Posted at 11:24 AM, Jul 12, 2021

BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The first M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent were destroyed on Friday at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. This marks the fourth of five chemical weapons destruction campaigns to begin at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

“Rockets are the most complex munitions in our stockpile,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, BGCAPP site project manager. “We are eager to see this portion of the chemical weapons in Kentucky destroyed. The team is focused and ready to accomplish the mission safely.”

Under the observation of trained operators, automated equipment will disassemble nearly 18,000 rockets and drain the chemical agent. The agent will be neutralizedby mixing it with water and caustic to produce hydrolysate.

After the agent is confirmed destroyed, the hydrolysate will be pumped to holding tanks to be processed later at an off-site disposal facility. The drained rocket warheads will be containerized and destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamberunit located on the depot. The rocket motors will be placed on pallets and safely transported to Anniston, Alabama, to be destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber unit.

The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternativesis responsible for destroying the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile in Colorado and Kentucky. The organization oversees the contract for design, construction, systemization, operation and closure of BGCAPP with BPBG and subcontractors Amentum, Battelle Memorial Institute and GP Strategies. The project also works closely with community advisory groupsto keep them informed about chemical weapons destruction progress.

The chemical weapons stockpile at the depotoriginally consisted of 523 tons of chemical agent configured in 155mm projectiles containing mustard and VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and M55 rockets containing GB and VX nerve agent.

In June 2019, the BGCAPP team began destroying the mustard stockpile using the Static Detonation Chamber, an explosive destruction technology. The mustard campaign is more than 90% complete. From January through May 2020, nearly 4,000 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent were destroyed at BGCAPP. From January through May 2021, nearly 13,000 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent were destroyed at BGCAPP.

As of July 2, more than 28% of the original 523 tons of chemical agent have been destroyed in Kentucky.

The stockpile sites in Colorado and Kentucky account for the last 10% of what was originally a national stockpile of more than 30,000 tons of chemical weapons. The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity destroyed the initial 90%, which was stored at seven other sites across the U.S. and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. Chemical weapons destruction in Colorado began in 2015. Both sites are on target to complete the destruction of chemical weapons by Dec. 31, 2023.