PUEBLO, Colo.,– The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) team completed the destruction of nearly 300,000 155mm projectiles on September 5.
According to the PCAPP, this marks the end of the first munitions campaign at PCAPP and the safe elimination of approximately two thirds of the original chemical agent stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot.
“We proudly completed this campaign ahead of schedule and while implementing strict new protocols to keep our workforce safe amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Walton Levi, site project manager, PCAPP.
“Destruction of 155mm projectiles is a great accomplishment for the PCAPP team,” said Ken Harrawood, project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team. “Innovative solutions are key to solving issues that arise with a complex and one-of-a-kind operating facility like PCAPP. This would not have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of our amazing workforce.”
As of August 28, the destruction of 1,791.9 U.S. tons of mustard agent has been reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or OPCW, an intergovernmental organization whose goal is to eradicate chemical weapons worldwide.
“The United States is fully committed to destroying 100% of its remaining chemical weapons stockpile by Dec. 31, 2023,” said Mike Abaie, program executive officer, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.
Under the close supervision of trained operators, the pilot plant uses advanced technologies to disassemble and drain the agent-filled munitions. The mustard agent is neutralized and the resulting product, known as hydrolysate, is broken down into salts, water and organics using living microbes.
The chemical weapons stockpile in Colorado has been protected and monitored by the Pueblo Chemical Depot since the early 1950s. Throughout the campaign, PCAPP personnel closely coordinated with the depot staff on the transportation of munitions.
“During the next several months at PCAPP, our technicians will retrofit the plant’s robots and systems to begin processing the next munitions campaign which are the 105mm projectiles,” said Levi.
In July, workers finished assembling three static detonation chamber, or SDC units, to augment PCAPP by destroying problematic munitions which are unsuitable for processing using the main plant’s automated equipment. The SDC units will destroy the 4.2-inch mortar and overpack rounds, which is the third of three destruction campaigns.
Agent destruction operations in Colorado began in March 2015 and are scheduled to be completed by 2023. More than 780,000 munitions were in the original chemical weapons stockpile in Pueblo.