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First nerve agent rockets destroyed at Blue Grass Army Depot

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 2:50 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - The first M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent were destroyed at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) on July 9.

It marks the fourth of five chemical weapons destruction campaigns to begin at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD).

“Rockets are the most complex munitions in our stockpile,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, BGCAPP site project manager. “We are eager to see this portion of the chemical weapons in Kentucky destroyed. The team is focused and ready to accomplish the mission safely.”

Under the observation of trained operators, automated equipment will disassemble nearly 18,000 rockets and drain the chemical agent.

“We’re doing the VX first, which is about 18,000 rockets. Then, when we’re finished with that, we’ll be at 48% complete,” said Dr. Coyle.

The agent will be neutralized by mixing it with water and caustic to produce hydrolysate.

After the agent is confirmed destroyed, the hydrolysate will be pumped to holding tanks to be processed later at an off-site disposal facility.

The drained rocket warheads will be containerized and destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber unit located on the depot.

The rocket motors will be placed on pallets and safely transported to Anniston, Alabama, to be destroyed in a Static Detonation Chamber unit.

Throughout the campaign, the BGCAPP team will work closely with BGAD and Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) partners to destroy the chemical weapons.

The chemical weapons stockpile at the depot 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.

It’s a complex process, but project manager Ron Hink told WKYT’s Bill Bryant it’s something they’re doing very carefully.

“So, we have a very in-depth safety system. So, there’s layers and layers of safety,” Hink said. “We also invest a lot of energy in training our workforce. So, we don’t just introduce an agent and try to get good at processing it. We get good at processing through simulations before we put any agent into the plant.”

In June 2019, the BGCAPP team began destroying the mustard stockpile using the Static Detonation Chamber, an explosive destruction technology. The mustard campaign is more than 90% complete.

From January through May 2020, nearly 4,000 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent were destroyed at BGCAPP. From January through May 2021, nearly 13,000 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent were destroyed at BGCAPP.

As of July 2, more than 28% of the original 523 tons of chemical agent have been destroyed in Kentucky.

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