Pueblo Chemical Neutralization Plant Almost Finished

A facility at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado that will use neutralization technology to destroy a large stockpile of mustard agent is almost finished, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Feb. 24).

The chemical disarmament plant is to employ remotely operated machinery to defuse approximately 780,000 munitions before they are put on an automated line where the weapons' explosives will be removed and their blister agent contents extracted and neutralized through the addition of lye. The slurry produced from that process would next be treated to eliminate all chemicals, after which the resulting water would be recycled back into the facility.

The price tag for the neutralization plant is $725 million, the newspaper reported.

Chemical disarmament work is not slated to begin before 2015 following a required period of system testing, which is expected to start in summer 2012. Testing is to involve tens of thousands of fake chemical munitions that robotic machinery will dismantle.

Once the plant goes online, it is expected to process in excess of 35 munitions every hour and to operate 24 hours per day. If that rate is maintained, the depot will be able to destroy all of the munitions in three years at a final price tag of $3.5 billion, according to the U.S. Army.

The chemical munitions are not overly complex but can be lethal if improperly handled. "They were designed to be handled by 18-year-old boys in the dark," said Lisabeth Wachutka, who manages storage of the decades-old artillery and mortar shells at the depot.

There have been 101 mustard agent leaking incidents documented at the Colorado arsenal (Tom Roeder, Gazette, Sept. 27).

September 28, 2011
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A facility at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado that will use neutralization technology to destroy a large stockpile of mustard agent is almost finished, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Feb. 24).