Bechtel Awarded $306 Million Contract To Build Chemical Disposal Facility In Maryland

October 6, 1998 A team headed by Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) has been awarded a seven-year contract by the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a facility that will destroy a government stockpile of more than 1,800 containers of lethal mustard agent that is stored at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.Under terms of the $306 million contract, the BNI team will employ a unique neutralization technology to destroy the agent stored at the facility. Work on the project will begin immediately, with all of the syrupy, liquid substance scheduled to be disposed of by October 2004.

According to the contract, the BNI team will complete the design and construct the facility, acquire and install all needed equipment, systemize the finished structure and train its personnel, detoxify the deadly agent through a chemical neutralization method, and eventually close down the facility. All told, project activities will extend until November 2005.
A total of 1,817 ton-containers of mustard agent is now stored at Aberdeen, with each container holding an average of 1,787 pounds of the chemical agent. A ton container is a steel cylinder about 6.5 feet long with outside diameters of about 30 inches. In all, a total of 1,623 tons of the agent will be destroyed.

The neutralization process that will be used at Aberdeen involves first draining the mustard agent, then mixing it with hot water in a chemical reactor to "neutralize" it. Completing the process will be the biodegradation of the resulting neutralized agent (called "hydrolysate").
The U.S. government's Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program stipulates that all of the nation's chemical agents must be destroyed by April 2007. At the same time, Public Law 99-145 stipulates that the Defense Department is required to destroy lethal chemical agents and munitions through demilitarization programs that are "safe for workers, the public, and the environment."

Other members of the Bechtel National team at Aberdeen include Battelle Memorial Institute, Waste Management, General Physics, Horne Engineering, UXB, EA Engineering, IEM, and Upper Chesapeake Medical Services. Principal Vice President Jan Van Prooyen, with more than 30 years of experience in related technology fields, will serve as project manager for BNI.

Bechtel National's involvement in the Aberdeen project marks the latest in a series of Defense Department assignments in which the company has been assisting the governments of both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in their efforts to dismantle a broad inventory of chemical weapons that both countries built up during the Cold War period.

Currently, the company also is constructing the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Alabama, a $300 million installation that is designed to destroy 2,000 tons of chemical agent stored onsite. In addition, BNI is dismantling 130 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch silos as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) agreements reached by the U.S. and former Soviet Union governments under terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START 1) Treaty. In a related assignment, the company also is building the Fissile Material Storage Facility, a $400 million complex in the South Urals region of Russia that will eventually provide safe storage for 25,000 canisters of fissile material that was formally contained in the Soviet nuclear arsenal.