The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) team is operating the BGCAPP to safely destroy the chemical weapons stockpile at Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Ky. and will close the plant after operations are completed. The 15,000-acre depot stores 523 tons of liquid and blister agent in projectiles and nerve agent in projectiles and rockets.
Neutralization of the chemical agent was the process chosen by the U.S. Department of Defense as the safest method of destruction. This process includes:
Disassembling the munitions using modified reverse assembly
Removing the chemical agent and energetics (explosives, fuses, and propellants) from projectiles and rockets
Neutralizing the agent and energetics through a single process: hydrolysis, which produces chemical compounds known as "hydrolysates"
The hydrolysate from the agent neutralization processes is then shipped to a permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility for final destruction
Decontaminating the metal parts and other materials (such as wood storage pallets) in a heated discharge conveyor
Recycling solid effluents or testing and disposing of them in permitted landfills
Recycling gas effluents or filtering and monitoring them before release to the atmosphere
Because solidification of the mustard agent was found in a significant number of mustard projectiles, rendering them unsuitable for the automated neutralization process described above, a Static Detonation Chamber system was used to destroy the entire Blue Grass mustard stockpile, completing operations in September 2021.
That system will be redesignated as an SDC 1200 and retrofitted with a new off-gas treatment system to destroy nerve agent. The SDC 1200, along with the larger SDC 2000, will be used to destroy drained rocket warheads and overpacked munitions. Both SDC systems are spherical, fully-contained and armored, high alloy stainless steel vessels that use electrically-generated heat at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to detonate or deflagrate the munitions, thus destroying the chemical agent and energetics.
This equipment uses fully monitored pollution abatement systems, which includes thermal oxidizers and scrubbers to remove particulates, sulfur-dioxides, chlorine, and any heavy metals. This equipment also uses robust filtration systems to ensure air released back to the environment is clean.
The Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program (ACWA) is responsible for safe disposal of the Blue Grass stockpile. Many other organizations collaborate with ACWA to complete this mission successfully, including the Blue Grass Army Depot, the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
Protection of the unique environment around the depot is one of the Army's top considerations. Therefore, permits for BGCAPP are based on special environmental studies and the environment is monitored continually to ensure that agent disposal operations are protective of the area.
After operations are completed, areas of the facility exposed to chemical agent will be decontaminated and the equipment dismantled. The disposition of the rest of the facility has not yet been determined and will be negotiated among the Commonwealth of Kentucky, ACWA and Blue Grass Army Depot.