The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) team announced the safe and efficient destruction of nearly 300,000 155mm chemical weapons projectiles stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado, marking the end of the plant’s first munitions campaign.
In 1997, a presidential directive and the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention – an international treaty to destroy chemical weapons – called upon all member nations to destroy their chemical weapons and production facilities. Bechtel leads the team contracted to help the United States complete its obligations under this treaty by safely destroying 2,611 tons of mustard agent inside munitions.
“Destruction of 155mm projectiles is a great accomplishment for the PCAPP team,” said Ken Harrawood, project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team. “Innovative solutions are key to solving issues that arise with a complex and one-of-a-kind operating facility like PCAPP. This would not have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of our amazing workforce.”
Mustard agent destruction operations began in the Bechtel-constructed plant four years ago. More than 780,000 total munitions were in the original Colorado stockpile. The Bechtel-led team is scheduled to complete its mission of safely destroying all chemical weapons in the stockpile by 2023. The remaining two destruction campaigns include mustard-filled 105mm projectiles and 4.2-inch mortar rounds.
The 155mm projectiles destroyed at PCAPP were World War II-era munitions, which each contained approximately 12 pounds of mustard agent.
The team used first-of-its-kind technology to neutralize the mustard agent molecules with caustic and hot water. The process byproduct is a chemical compound called hydrolysate, a common industrial chemical that is readily biodegradable. A biotreatment process breaks down hydrolysate into salts, water and organics using living microbes.
PCAPP’s next munitions campaign will be the destruction of 105mm projectiles, which each contain three pounds of mustard agent.
A Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant ordnance technician prepares to transfer the final 155mm projectile for destruction on Sept. 5.