Destruction of chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot is expected to be underway this time next year. An update came during the quarterly citizens’ advisory meeting in Richmond Wednesday.
The disposal schedule calls for starting with mustard agent projectiles next summer. Neutralization of nerve agent is expected to begin in early 2020. Blue Grass Chemical Agent Site Project Manager Jeff Brubaker says a relatively small number of nerve agent munitions could be placed in the static detonation chamber. “There are a number of over packed munitions that we think would be better suited for direct destruction in the SDC,” said Brubaker.
Brubaker says hiring has reached the 90% level with all 1300 employees expected to be in place by the end of October. The plant manager says equipment will be tested over the next several months and employees will undergo between 400 and a thousand hours of training.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Charles Ball assured members the chemical weapon disposal program at Blue Grass will be completed by the end of 2023.
Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board Co-Chair Craig Williams says safety and environmental issues must remain in the forefront. “You know deadlines are fine and they give you a motivation to accomplish them, but we can’t sacrifice what is our priority here in the community which is worker safety, public safety, and environmental protection,” said Williams.
Williams says work is only beginning on determining the potential future use of plant facilities once chemical weapon demilitarization is completed. Buildings used specifically for destruction of chemical weapons are expected to be torn down following the disposal program.