A Bechtel-led plant in Kentucky has successfully begun destroying its next batch of chemical weapons, just two months after completing a previous campaign.
The first M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent were destroyed July 9 at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP), near Richmond, Kentucky. Nearly 18,000 rockets containing VX will be destroyed in the campaign.
“Our team has successfully completed two projectile campaigns involving nerve agent,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager. “As with previous campaigns, safety will remain the top priority as we begin rocket destruction.”
Bechtel-led team takes on next inventory of chemical weapons
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 chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot contained 523 tons of nerve and mustard agent in rockets and projectiles. As of July 2, more than 28.5% of the original stockpile has been destroyed at BGCAPP.
In May, BGCAPP completed destroying 155-millimeter projectiles containing VX. In 2020, projectiles containing GB nerve agent were destroyed. Both campaigns were safely completed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mustard stockpile is being destroyed using a Static Detonation Chamber, with the campaign slated to complete by the end of this summer.
Destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile has international significance as the U.S. is a signatory to an international treaty calling for the eradication of chemical weapons.
BGCAPP 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. Once the team completes operations, the facility will be closed, equipment dismantled, decontaminated, and removed in accordance with agreements between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the U.S. Army.