Bechtel yesterday finished building a plant that will destroy the US’s remaining stockpile of chemical weapons.
This is an important achievement but there’s more work to do, and we look forward to the day when the plant starts actual operations– Craig Albert, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental unit
The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Kentucky now enters a multi-year testing phase where simulated chemical weapons are taken apart and emptied, the company said.
Once running, the plant will use a new approach to destroy the nerve agents GB (Sarin) and VX.
As an alternative to incineration, the plant will use chemicals to neutralize the agents, followed by supercritical water oxidation – where superheated water and high pressure are used to break down the hazardous chemicals into non-hazardous ingredients.
"This is such an important facility from a global safety and security perspective," said Craig Albert, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental business unit. "This is an important achievement but there’s more work to do, and we look forward to the day when the plant starts actual operations."
The plant will help safely eliminate the remaining 10% of the nation’s decades-old chemical weapons stockpile under the Chemical Weapons Convention, a 1997 treaty signed by 190 countries.
Built under contract to the Department of Defense’s Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, the plant will destroy 523 tons of mustard and nerve agent in rockets and artillery shells stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass is a joint venture of Bechtel National Inc. and Parsons Government Services Inc.
Bechtel said employees have completed 5,037,710 hours and 518 days without a lost time accident and a recordable injury rate 94% lower than construction industry average.
While the main plant continues systemization, construction of the Explosive Destruction Technology facility responsible for processing weapons containing mustard agent will carry on until early 2017.
Bechtel is leading the team completing a sister plant in Pueblo, Colorado that will destroy mustard agent. That plant is now approaching the end of its testing phase.
Photograph: US airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard in training with gas masks, February 2014 (Master Sgt. Mark Olsen/Wikimedia Commons)