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Kentucky Chemical Weapons Disposal Facility Half Finished

Construction is slightly more than halfway finished on the chemical arms demilitarization facility at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, the Richmond Register reported on Monday (see GSN, May 4).

The site is set soon to receive an automated device that would disconnect rocket engines from the warheads loaded with chemical warfare materials.

“This is a significant milestone,” according to Tom McKinney, project manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, the firm assigned to construct and ultimately manage the disposal facility.

“The rocket-cutting machine is specifically designed for this project,” he added. “Successfully demonstrating the machine’s capabilities during factory testing provides confidence the machine will perform during plant operations.”

In excess of 2,600 fake munitions were dismantled during the device's two-year trial term in Washington state, the newspaper reported. During actual usage at Blue Grass, the separation of warhead from rocket would be followed by chemical neutralization of the warfare agent and destruction of the weapon's propellant.

“The agent and energetics neutralization equipment and the equipment to thermally decontaminate the remaining metal parts have already been successfully installed in the plant," said government project site manager Jeff Brubaker. "The rocket-cutting machine is the first large machine built specifically designed to take the munitions apart so that their energetics and agent can be safely removed for neutralization"

Four of 11 major technical systems of the Blue Grass plant are still being built or undergoing trials in California and Washington, McKinney said.

The Blue Grass Army Depot stores 523 tons of blister and nerve agents held in various munitions. The Defense Department in April said the anticipated completion of disposal operations would be pushed back by two years to 2023 (see GSN, April 17). Completion of the demilitarization program in Kentucky would finish off the declared U.S. chemical arsenal (Richmond Register, May 21).

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