RICHMOND — The planned separation of 44 M55 rocket motors from their nerve-agent warheads began Wednesday at the Blue Grass Army Depot.
Blue Grass Chemical Activity, a tenant organization at the depot, is in charge of the operation, according to a news release from the agency.
In a presentation earlier this year to the Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission and Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, BGCA commander Lt. Col. Christopher Grice said there is concern about the degradation of the rockets’ motors and how that will affect the stockpile’s systematic destruction slated to start in 2018.
The separations will allow experts to analyze the rocket propellant to determine best practices for continued safe storage and future destruction, according the news release.
“BGCA is ensuring operations are completed safely, efficiently and environmentally sound,” said Grice in the news release. “The rockets are safely disassembled using equipment that was specifically developed for the rocket separation operation and successfully used at both Pine Bluff Chemical Activity and Umatilla Chemical Depot.”
The planned separation is occurring within one storage igloo at the depot. The chemicals will be repacked into sealed containers, according to Karl Slaughenhaupt, Blue Grass Chemical Activity chief of operations.
The operation is monitored continuously to detect the presence of any contamination and workers wear proper protective equipment, the release stated.
The separation of the 44 rockets is expected to be complete by the end of April, Slaughenhaupt told the citizens’ organizations earlier this month.