The last U.S. chemical weapon containing VX nerve agent has been destroyed at the Bechtel-led Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP), near Richmond, Kentucky. The milestone marks another step toward eliminating the entire U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, which the government has committed to do by the end of 2023.
The final VX M55 rocket was processed through the facility April 19, ending the destruction campaign that began last July.
“Our team safely completed the first nerve agent rocket campaign using a collective approach to meet and overcome various challenges,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager. “We now turn our attention to the last destruction campaign, GB rockets, which will start later this year.”
“We are celebrating two milestones today,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, BGCAPP site project manager. “First, the entire U.S. stockpile of VX nerve agent is now completely destroyed. Next, this marks the completion of the fourth of five chemical weapons destruction campaigns in Kentucky.”
Nearly 18,000 rockets were disassembled and the VX agent drained, then neutralized by mixing it with water and caustic to produce hydrolysate. After confirmation that the agent was destroyed, the hydrolysate was pumped to storage tanks before being shipped for further processing at Veolia Environmental Services in Texas.
The drained rocket warheads were containerized and placed in temporary storage at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). Marked as secondary waste, they will be destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber unit located on BGAD.
The chemical weapons stockpile at the depot originally consisted of 523 U.S. tons of chemical agent configured in 155mm projectiles containing mustard and VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and M55 rockets containing GB and VX nerve agent.
The mustard destruction was completed in September 2021. GB nerve agent in 8-inch projectiles was destroyed in 2020 while VX nerve agent in projectiles was destroyed in 2021.
Operators move rockets containing VX nerve agent from a pallet to a transfer cart to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. The rockets were among the last containing VX to be destroyed in the U.S. stockpile.