Colorado Plant Begins Destruction of Next Inventory of Chemical Weapons
15 December 2020
Bechtel-led team marks milestone toward meeting international treaty obligations
A Bechtel-led plant in Colorado has successfully begun its next campaign of chemical weapons destruction, bringing the nation closer to its goal of eradicating the national stockpile by 2023.
At the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Pueblo, a 105mm artillery projectile filled with mustard agent was robotically opened and drained on December 12. It is the first of some 380,000 projectiles scheduled to be processed in this campaign.
“As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, the U.S. is committed to destroying the remaining stockpile,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit. “Our team is equally committed to completing the mission and doing it safely.”
Project Manager Ken Harrawood said “Our first campaign was completed safely and without a lost-time accident or incident. The plant has been retrofitted to handle smaller projectiles, we’re trained, and we’re ready to safely restart.”
The plant uses a two-stage process to destroy the toxins: chemical neutralization followed by biotreatment using living microbes. The remnants are salts, water, and organics.
For decades, 780,000 chemical munitions have been stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot. Destruction began in 2015 with an inventory of 155mm artillery projectiles. That campaign completed in September of this year.
A sister plant in Richmond, Kentucky began operations earlier this year. Both sites host inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to verify compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, signed by more than 190 nations.
The Pueblo 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 Pueblo Team includes subcontractors Amentum and Battelle.
Workers at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant load the first 105mm projectile into equipment where it will be taken apart and destroyed.
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.