A Bechtel-led team has successfully completed the destruction of projectiles containing the nerve agent GB at a chemical weapons facility in Kentucky.
The destruction of the nearly 4,000 GB projectiles at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) moves the U.S. one step closer to meeting an international treaty obligation to eliminate the country’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Destruction of the GB projectiles began in January and continued safely while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the country.
“The nation determined early on that the eradication of chemical weapons is an essential mission,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental business unit. “The team at the plant quickly adapted to the new ways of working, did so safely, and delivered on this phase of the mission. My thanks and appreciation go out to our team and our customers in the Department of Defense.”
Approximately 523 tons of chemical agents were originally stored in weapons at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Kentucky. Destruction of projectiles containing the blister agent mustard began last June. Together, more than 61 tons of GB and mustard agent have been safely destroyed at the Blue Grass facility.
There were no recordable injuries during the GB projectile campaign.
“The performance of the Blue Grass team can only be described as excellent,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager. “While this is only the first of four nerve agent campaigns, we clearly demonstrated our commitment to safety, compliance and adherence to proven procedures.”
Automated equipment disassembled and drained the GB from the weapons. The agent was neutralized and will be broken down into carbon dioxide, water and salts in a secondary process. The metal parts were heated to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for decontamination and then safely recycled.
Also slated to be destroyed at the facility are projectiles containing the nerve agent VX, and rockets containing both GB and VX. Destruction of all chemical weapons stored at the depot is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023.
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.
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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Two operators work together to place one of the last overpacked 8-inch projectiles containing nerve agent into a tray to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant May 9. The last GB 8-inch projectile was destroyed May 11, marking the complete destruction of an entire type of chemical weapon.