A Bechtel-led team has successfully completed the destruction of VX nerve agent projectiles, eliminating the last of an entire class of chemical weapons and bringing the U.S. closer to a goal of destroying its chemical weapons stockpile. The BGCAPP team began the VX campaign on January 10.
The current campaign focused on the eradication of approximately 60 tons of VX nerve agent in 155-milimeter artillery projectiles, which were opened and drained robotically. The drained toxins undergo a neutralization process using hot water and sodium hydroxide to destroy the VX agent. The metal parts are then heated to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for decontamination and safe recycling.
Dedication to the mission
“This is an important milestone for the team,” said Ron Hink, project manager. “Completing this mission has international significance and our team is committed to doing it safely and on time.”
The Chemical Weapons Convention commits more than 190 nations to the eradication of chemical weapons. The U.S. government and Bechtel-led team is committed to safely eradicating the stockpile by 2023.
“This team has again proven its dedication to completing this important mission,” Hink said. “In just over four months, and working through a global pandemic, the team successfully and safely completed the destruction campaign.”
Workers at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky load the last projectiles containing VX nerve agent. The projectiles were then drained and destroyed.
Destruction began in 2019
For decades, the weapons were stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant is safely destroying more than 523 tons of mustard and nerve agent in rockets and projectiles. The mission started in June 2019 where destruction of mustard projectiles began using a sealed static detonation chamber.
Additionally, the main plant destroyed the remaining stockpile of eight-inch nerve agent projectiles, eliminating another class of weapon from the U.S. stockpile. With the completion of the 155-milimeter projectiles, the plant will prepare for the next inventory of nerve-agent weapons: M55 rockets.
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. Once the team has completed 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.