Bechtel destroys US’ last chemical weapon

Workers load the last rocket containing GB nerve agent to be destroyed onto a loading rack in the Blue Grass plant (Courtesy of Bechtel)
Bechtel has destroyed the final munition in the US stockpile of chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Kentucky.

That completes the US’ commitment to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons before 30 September this year as a party to the  Chemical Weapons Convention treaty ratified in 1997.

Bechtel won the contract to design, build, and operate the plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot in 2003. It completed construction in 2015.

The stockpile originally consisted of 523 tons of chemical agent configured in 155mm projectiles containing mustard and VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, and M55 rockets containing GB and VX nerve agent.

Beginning in 2019, destruction took place around the clock at the plant. It continued without interruption during the 2020-2023 covid pandemic.

Bechtel says it used “neutralisation and bio-treatment technology, automation, and static detonation chambers” to destroy the weapons.

“I am so proud of my Bechtel colleagues who with hard work, spirit, and ingenuity, delivered a monumental feat for the country and its allies,” said John Howanitz, president of Bechtel’s nuclear, security and environmental business. “With this achievement, Bechtel has now safely eliminated nearly 5,000 tons of chemical weapon rockets, artillery rounds, mortar shells, and storage canisters at four of the nine original US storage sites in Kentucky, Colorado, Maryland, and Alabama.”

“The safety record of the Blue Grass plant is nothing short of remarkable,” said Michael Costas, Bechtel’s general manager for defence and space.

Attention turns now to safely closing the plant over the coming years. The team will begin with decontamination and dismantling equipment that came into contact with chemical agents.

The disposition for the remainder of the plant has not yet been determined, Bechtel said.

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