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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Kentucky Plant Begins Destruction of Next Inventory of Nerve Agent Weapons

  • 12 January 2021
    RESTON, Va.
  • Americas, Chemical Weapons Disassembly & Destruction, Nuclear, Security and Environmental , Press Release

Bechtel-led team marks milestone toward meeting international treaty obligations

A Bechtel-led plant in Kentucky has successfully begun destroying its next batch of chemical weapons, bringing the nation closer to its goal of eradicating the national stockpile by 2023.

At the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, a 155-milimeter artillery projectile filled with VX nerve agent was robotically opened and drained on Jan. 10. It is the first of more than 60 tons of VX 155mm projectiles scheduled to be processed.

“This is a program of international significance,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit. “The Chemical Weapons Convention commits more than 190 nations to the eradication of these weapons. Our team is equally committed to completing the mission and doing it safely.”

The drained toxins will undergo a neutralization process using hot water and sodium hydroxide, destroying the VX agent. The metal parts will be heated to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for decontamination and can then be safely recycled.

Destruction began in 2019

For decades, some 523 tons of chemical munitions were stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot. In June 2019, destruction of mustard projectiles began in an on-site facility using a static detonation chamber. More than 60% of the mustard agent had been destroyed by the end of last year.  In early 2020, the plant destroyed the remaining stockpile of 8-inch nerve agent projectiles, eliminating an entire class of weapon from the U.S. stockpile. After the current campaign, an inventory of rockets containing nerve agent will be all that remains.

“The plant changeover from 8-inch projectiles to the smaller 155mm munitions is significant,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager. “That the team completed this safely and successfully – during a global pandemic – speaks to their dedication to completing this mission.” 

A sister plant in Pueblo, Colorado began operations in 2015. Both sites host inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to verify compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant was built and is being operated under contract to the Department of Defense’s Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives. Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass is a joint venture of Bechtel National Inc. and Parsons Government Services Inc.

Two Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant operators work together to prepare for destruction a 155mm projectile containing VX nerve agent.

Historic commitment to global security

Since the 1980s, Bechtel has had an active role in U.S. and international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. With the destruction of the stockpiles underway in Colorado and Kentucky, along with previous projects in Alabama and Maryland, Bechtel will have safely eliminated nearly 5,000 tons of chemical weapons in rockets, artillery rounds, mortar shells, and storage canisters at four of the nine original U.S. storage depots.

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Bechtel is a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and government. Differentiated by the quality of our people and our relentless drive to deliver the most successful outcomes, we align our capabilities to our customers’ objectives to create a lasting positive impact. Since 1898, we have helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents that have created jobs, grown economies, improved the resiliency of the world's infrastructure, increased access to energy, resources, and vital services, and made the world a safer, cleaner place.  

Bechtel serves the Energy; Infrastructure; Manufacturing & Technology; Mining & Metals; and Nuclear, Security & Environmental markets. Our services span from initial planning and investment, through start-up and operations.

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