Media Day at the depot

Toxic material handler, Jonathan Strunk, motions to forklift driver Jim Nunn as he loads approximately 4,800 pounds of non-agent test munitions into an enhanced on site container to be transported to the destruction plant.


Taylor Six/The Register

It has been a milestone year for the workers and scientists at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant having begun operations in June destroying 13 tons, or 2.49%, of mustard agent as of Wednesday.

At their last quarterly meeting of 2019, BGCAPP employees gave a year in review update for their facilities, noting the strides they have made and will continue to make in 2020.

"Great progress has been made," Candace Coyle, BGCAPP's site project manager, said. "There have been huge strides made from a year ago today."

She noted to those in attendance at the meeting that spring and summer was the biggest time for the plant in reference to all of their facilities.

A ribbon cutting ceremony that welcomed then-Governor Matt Bevin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was held in May to celebrate the kickoff of operations, which were scheduled to begin in early June.

The Static Detonation Chamber (SDC), an explosive detonation technology designed to destroy mustard-agent projectiles, executed such on June 7 when the facility demolished its first munition.

Perhaps the biggest deal of the spring and summer season, according to Coyle, was when BGCAPP officials determined modifications that needed to be made to the main plant for rocket processing systems due to work safety issues identified.

This prompted officials to look at other means of rocket processing, ultimately introducing plans to construct an additional static detonation chamber (SDC 2000) to process M55 rockets on site.

The proposed SDC 2000 will process drained rocket warheads, as well as overpacked munitions, which are in larger, sealed, steel containers to keep stored. If BGAD were to process these munitions in the already standing BGCAPP Main Plant, personnel in agent protective suits would be required to open the overpack and remove the leaking munition, making it a more riskyoperation.

It wasn't until July that the document of Finding of No Significant Impact was signed verifying there's no anticipated significant environmental impact made by the addition of the SDC 2000 at the plant.

Just this week, Coyle reported preparations for the new facility's construction were initiated with the approval of a temporary authorization request by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.

"It is great because it was in the spring that we decided to make this change, and now we are boots on the ground moving forward with the new facility," she said.

The main plant of BGCAPP, which houses the two-step technology of neutralization and supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) to destroy nerve agent stored at the depot, was declared ready in October with operations to begin in January 2020.

In the meeting, Coyle reported that the SCWO facility is fully staffed and operators are progressing through certifications and training.

Three phases will commence to prepare the facility beginning in January with a one-month shake down.

"This will optimize, refine and get where we need to go," she said.

A four-month pre-operational assessment trial will be held using hydrolysate simulant as well as a six-month operational assessment trial using GB hydrolysate from the main plant.

Looking forward, GB rocket operations at the plant are anticipated to begin in April 2021 and SDC 2000 operations are slated for early 2022.

Other business

• Staffing in Richmond is now at 1,259 employees.

• Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass has spent $181 million with Kentucky companies to date, with $107 million spent in Madison and surrounding counties. For local payroll to date, BPBG has paid $993 million.

• Attendees heard presentations from Jeff Kiley and John McArthur about shipping contaminated waste. Dale Burton, with the Blue Grass Army Depot, spoke about the KDEP permitting updates.

• Chairman Craig Williams gave an economic impact update stating that it is estimated that the remaining infrastructure post demilitarization will value at about $1.5 billion. Two SDC facilities will remain.

The next CDCAB meeting will be held March 4, 2020, 1:30 p.m. at the EKU Perkins Building.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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