X-rays begin on mustard rounds at Kentucky depot

The work of X-raying random samples of mustard rounds at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky's Madison County began on Monday.

The x-rays will then be used in determining if the projectiles need to be exploded inside of steel detonation chambers at a later date, Kentucky.com reports.

Officials believe that the liquid mustard agent inside of the 60-year-old shells has probably solidified, taking a gel or tar-like form that cannot be drained. That suspicion is based on similar problems found at the Tooele Army Depot in Utah in 2008.

"Safety is our number one priority," Lt. Col. Steven Basso, commander of the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, the chemical weapons operation at the depot, said, according to Kentucky.com. "We are not going to do anything that's going to put anybody, civilians or workers, at risk."

Basso added that no decision has yet been made to explode the mustard rounds.

There are 15,482 mustard rounds stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot, representing 181,000 pounds of mustard agent, Anthony Reed, the deputy site project manager for the pilot plant under construction, told Kentucky.com.

"If we find that there is solidification in these rounds, at that point we will have a different path forward to consider," Reed said, according to Kentucky.com.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet approved a plan in January to x-ray 96 mustard rounds. If all goes according to schedule, the initial x-raying will be completed by the end of June, with a report on the assessment released by late July.