BGCAPP: Half of all chemical agents destroyed

·5 min read

Sep. 17—According to officials, 50% of all chemical agents at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) have been destroyed.

The Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board (CDCAB) and the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizen's Advisory Council (CAC) held their third yearly meeting at Eastern Kentucky University's Perkins Building on Thursday where they announced the major milestone.

"This is a really good thing," said Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) Site Project Manager Dr. Candace Coyle. "The last time we spoke we were at 50% done with munition numbers... But now we've hit 50% with the chemical agent... Rockets have a little bit more (chemical) agent than the projectiles did."

According to Coyle, the campaign is still on track to end next December. The overall destruction status at BGCAPP sits at 50.51% completion and 264.3 tons of agent have been destroyed. The original stockpile at the plant was 523 tons of mustard and nerve agent.

Four campaigns have been completed at BGCAPP, as the stockpiles of H 155mm projectiles, GB 8-inch projectiles, VX 155mm projectiles, and VX M55 rockets have all been destroyed.

All that remains currently are the GB M55 rockets.

The campaign to dismantle GB M55 rockets kicked off July 6 and is 7.2% complete as of the Sept. 15. In the previous meeting of the group, it was noted this final campaign would be the longest and most dangerous overseen at the facility due to the nature of the rockets.

"We are starting this new campaign on a very slow and deliberate ramp up as we adjust to the new nerve agent GB compared to VX," Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) Program Executive Officer Michael Abaie said. "We're making sure that we're making deliberate analysis as we move forward... The team has done a fantastic job at adapting."

In week one, the plant destroyed 10 rockets per day (36 rockets were forecast to be destroyed per day).

In weeks two through three, the plant destroyed 41 rockets per day (64 rockets were forecast to be destroyed per day).

In weeks four through 7, the plant destroyed 45 rockets at day (96 rockets were forecast to be destroyed per day).

In weeks eight through 12, 130 rockets were destroyed per day (125 rockets were forecast to be destroyed per day).

The slow start to the campaign comes down to a multitude of factors. Caustic damage to equipment was one. Getting used to new rockets was another.

"People think that a rocket is a rocket. But they actually are a little bit different. They're made a little bit different. There were some adjustments necessary. In the interest of safety we used deliberate speed there and got back up on top of it... We're gaining momentum," said Ron Hinkle.

Hinkle said the team has had a day where 185 rockets were dismantled and believes the team will be able to dismantle 200 rockets a day on some occasions.

The changeover to GB rockets was a rapid one.

"We were towards the end of the changeover or in the middle of it last time we met in June. I have to applaud Ron (Hinkle, project manager of Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass) and his team as well as all of our partners getting this ready for the changeover," Coyle said. "It was done in 77 days. It was planned for 180 days and I don't think anybody is going to change over that quickly in chemical demilitarization history. So another first for BGCAPP."

Progress is also continuing on the preparations for static detonation chamber (SDC) 2000. Abaie said they hope to have the system operating before the end of the year. It is a matter of great importance, as the chamber can be used to destroy any overpacked leakers from the GB rocket campaign.

(CAC) Chair Doug Hindman welcomed David Stipes, executive director of the Richmond Industrial Development Corporation, to the board.

"I want to welcome everybody this afternoon, but I want to especially welcome David Stipes, who is now officially on our committee after two years. During which time he has been very busy, very useful, and very helpful," Hindman said.

CDCAB co-chair Craig Williams gave a negative update on an amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act introduced by Congressman Andy Barr. The amendment would have the Bluegrass Army Depot do a feasibility study for future uses of the disposal facility.

"On a call on Monday with Congressman Barr and Senator (Mitch) McConnell's staff, I was informed the National Defense Authorization Act has been usurped by a continuing resolution associated with that act," Williams said. "It will not become affective in the anticipated timeframe of late September. and it also means that... it may not pass until sometime in December."

The Preparing for Closure Working Group will begin meeting in Jan. 2023. They will discuss closing plans for decontaminating and decommissioning main plant rooms with individual health based risk assessments for each room. Plans will also be made for decommissioning sampling, in-process monitoring, occluded space, unventilated monitoring, and resource conservation and recovery.

CAC and CDCAB's 2023 meeting schedule is the following;

Wednesday, March 1.

Wednesday, June 7.

Wednesday, September 6.

Wednesday December 6.

Other business:

The public comment period for class 2 permit modification requests at the plant ends on Oct. 17. It would allow a change in agent monitoring levels for rocket warhead containerization system skid release from the munitions demilitarization building.

The first delivery of drained GB rocket warheads to temporary storage at the Blue Grass Chemical Activity was made. They currently await destruction.

The first delivery of GB rocket motors was made to temporary storage in Anniston, Ala. where they await destruction.

Potential destruction of rocket motors at the Bluegrass Army Dept was discontinued.