Flameless technology fails to eliminate chemical weapon residue

At its recent quarterly meeting, the Chemical Destruction Citizens Advisory Board at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky learned that an attempt to break down toxic chemicals used in the storage of weapons of mass destruction had failed.

The failed test means that eliminating the chemicals that adhere to the metal parts that are contained in the packing materials of chemical munitions stored in the depot cannot be accomplished using flameless technology, according to RichmondRegister.com.

Tests that had been conducted to attempt to heat the small amounts of PCBs and other toxic elements incidental to the chemical neutralization of nerve and mustard agent weapons to 2,200 degrees did not yield the expected results. The technology used in the heating device is normally used at temperatures no greater than 1,800 degrees.

Rick Rife, the deputy project manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, which is the contractor for chemical agent destruction at the plant, said that a 2,200 degree temperature is critical to break down the molecules of PCBs, RichmondRegister.com reports.

Unfortunately, at higher temperatures, Rife said, the heating device itself began to malfunction. He said that natural-gas fueled combustion will have to be used instead, despite the Madison County community’s aversion to the method.

Most of the nation’s chemical weapons, which are being eliminated in accordance with international treaty obligations, are being destroyed by incineration. The neutralization option was chosen for sites in Kentucky in large part because of objections raised in Madison County that questioned the safety of the incineration, RichmondRegister.com reports.

Funding issues have been raised by the Department of Defense, which is conducting a review expected to be completed by mid-June. The project is currently expected to exceed cost estimates by 25 percent.

According to Jeff Brubaker, the government’s site manager for the Kentucky project, the review has not held up any work, which is 30 percent finished, according to RichmondRegister.com.