Executive Summary

The Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program believes that a modified baseline process, derived from the baseline incineration system, is a workable concept for destroying the chemical stockpile at Pueblo Chemical Depot. Provided the many challenges described throughout this report can be successfully overcome in a timely manner, the committee believes that the proposed modified baseline process can be developed into a facility design that will meet the criteria set forth in Public Law 105–261 governing the selection of a technology for Pueblo. The modified baseline process should be as safe, rapid, and effective as the baseline incineration system in completing the destruction of the Pueblo stockpile. Under optimal developmental circumstances, it may prove even more efficacious than the baseline system. Whether destruction of the stockpile can be accomplished with either the baseline or the modified baseline process by April 29, 2007, the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is uncertain.

The challenges to implementing a modified baseline process are both technical and nontechnical. The committee believes that if the Army acts promptly, the necessary technical developments could be completed and demonstrated. Administrative challenges, which involve obtaining regulatory approval for various system options, also appear to be surmountable. All of the challenges are fully discussed in the report.

General findings and recommendations are provided at the end of this Executive Summary. Specific findings and recommendations are presented throughout the report and are compiled in Chapter 5.

BACKGROUND

The Army, through the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD), is responsible for destroying the U.S. stockpile of chemical munitions at nine storage sites. The portion of the stockpile at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado comprises 780,078 projectiles containing a total of 2,611 tons of mustard agent, the second largest number of munitions and the third largest amount of mustard agent stored at any site in the continental United States. The purpose of this report is to present an evaluation of one of the four technologies being considered for the destruction of the chemical munitions stored at Pueblo. This evaluation was conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (Stockpile Committee).

The technology evaluated in this report is called the modified baseline process (a simplified version of the Army’s baseline incineration system for the destruction of agent and energetics and the processing of secondary wastes associated with the chemical agents and munitions). Other technologies under consideration for the Pueblo site are the baseline incineration system and two nonincineration technologies. The latter two are the subject of another report by the NRC Committee on Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: Phase II (ACW II Committee).

The modified baseline process proposed for the Pueblo site was derived from lessons learned during the disposal operations for mustard munitions at the first baseline incineration system facility, the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) and during general agent operations at a second baseline facility in Utah, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (TOCDF). Similar baseline systems are being installed at three other sites located in Alabama, Arkansas, and Oregon.

The neutralization-based technologies under consideration for the Pueblo site are being evaluated as part of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program through a separate Department of Defense (DoD) organization, the office of the Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment. The ACWA program is assessing the two alternative technologies previously identified. Hydrolysis followed by supercritical water oxidation



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
A Modified Baseline Incineration Process for Mustard Projectiles at Pueblo Chemical Depot Executive Summary The Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program believes that a modified baseline process, derived from the baseline incineration system, is a workable concept for destroying the chemical stockpile at Pueblo Chemical Depot. Provided the many challenges described throughout this report can be successfully overcome in a timely manner, the committee believes that the proposed modified baseline process can be developed into a facility design that will meet the criteria set forth in Public Law 105–261 governing the selection of a technology for Pueblo. The modified baseline process should be as safe, rapid, and effective as the baseline incineration system in completing the destruction of the Pueblo stockpile. Under optimal developmental circumstances, it may prove even more efficacious than the baseline system. Whether destruction of the stockpile can be accomplished with either the baseline or the modified baseline process by April 29, 2007, the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is uncertain. The challenges to implementing a modified baseline process are both technical and nontechnical. The committee believes that if the Army acts promptly, the necessary technical developments could be completed and demonstrated. Administrative challenges, which involve obtaining regulatory approval for various system options, also appear to be surmountable. All of the challenges are fully discussed in the report. General findings and recommendations are provided at the end of this Executive Summary. Specific findings and recommendations are presented throughout the report and are compiled in Chapter 5. BACKGROUND The Army, through the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD), is responsible for destroying the U.S. stockpile of chemical munitions at nine storage sites. The portion of the stockpile at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado comprises 780,078 projectiles containing a total of 2,611 tons of mustard agent, the second largest number of munitions and the third largest amount of mustard agent stored at any site in the continental United States. The purpose of this report is to present an evaluation of one of the four technologies being considered for the destruction of the chemical munitions stored at Pueblo. This evaluation was conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Review and Evaluation of the Army Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (Stockpile Committee). The technology evaluated in this report is called the modified baseline process (a simplified version of the Army’s baseline incineration system for the destruction of agent and energetics and the processing of secondary wastes associated with the chemical agents and munitions). Other technologies under consideration for the Pueblo site are the baseline incineration system and two nonincineration technologies. The latter two are the subject of another report by the NRC Committee on Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: Phase II (ACW II Committee). The modified baseline process proposed for the Pueblo site was derived from lessons learned during the disposal operations for mustard munitions at the first baseline incineration system facility, the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) and during general agent operations at a second baseline facility in Utah, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (TOCDF). Similar baseline systems are being installed at three other sites located in Alabama, Arkansas, and Oregon. The neutralization-based technologies under consideration for the Pueblo site are being evaluated as part of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program through a separate Department of Defense (DoD) organization, the office of the Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment. The ACWA program is assessing the two alternative technologies previously identified. Hydrolysis followed by supercritical water oxidation

OCR for page 1
A Modified Baseline Incineration Process for Mustard Projectiles at Pueblo Chemical Depot is planned for the Newport, Indiana, site to destroy the bulk VX nerve agent stored there in ton containers. Hydrolysis followed by biodegradation is planned for the Aberdeen, Maryland, site, where bulk mustard agent is stored, also in ton containers. The process to select a technology for the Pueblo Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (PUCDF) was defined in a notice of intent (NOI) published in the Federal Register on April 20, 2000. Environmental impact statements required by the National Environmental Policy Act will be developed for all the candidate technologies. The final choice will be made by the DoD from the technologies certified to be as safe and cost efficient as the baseline incineration system, as well as capable of completing destruction of the Pueblo stockpile either by the CWC treaty deadline (April 29, 2007) or the date that would be achievable by the baseline system, whichever is later. The decision tentatively will be made in early fiscal year 2002. EXPERIENCE AT JACADS WITH MUSTARD MUNITIONS A large number of mustard projectiles of the type stored at Pueblo were successfully processed in the baseline incineration system at JACADS, although a number of operational problems were encountered. The lessons learned while solving these problems were incorporated in the modified baseline process for Pueblo. In the baseline system, following removal of energetic materials by the projectile/mortar disassembly machine in an explosive containment room, projectiles are drained of liquid agent by the multipurpose demilitarization machine (MDM); the drained agent is then sent separately to a liquid incinerator, where it is thermally oxidized. However, in the projectiles at JACADS, a solid “heel” of gelled mustard agent almost always remained, often as much as 40 to 50 percent of the original agent charge. Because the operating permit for the metal parts furnace (MPF) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was based on processing no more than a 5 percent heel, the number of rounds per processing tray had to be restricted. The MPF production rate was reduced accordingly. Moreover, liquid mustard agent often foamed up and overflowed the opened projectile casings, contaminating the MDM and the surrounding area. The MDM then had to be shut down and decontaminated with a neutralizing solution, after which it had to be cleaned and the corrosive effects of agent overflow and decontamination solution repaired. JACADS personnel developed some imaginative solutions to the problems of foaming liquid agent and gelled agent heels. First, after receiving permission from the Environmental Protection Agency in 1999, JACADS conducted trial burns in which trays of 96 opened but undrained mustard projectiles were processed through the MPF. Although the mustard was successfully destroyed, stack emissions of mercury and cadmium were higher than the JACADS trial burn permit requirements. If these emissions could be lowered by high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and carbon filtration in a modified baseline design, all of the agent and the metal shells could be put through an MPF, which would eliminate the need for a liquid incinerator. Second, to minimize the frothing problem, a number of munitions were frozen before the agent cavities were opened to the atmosphere. Freezing had the disadvantage of adding another processing step, but is expected to reduce the downtime for maintenance. Processing frozen projectiles in the MPF was not actually tested at JACADS, because the few munitions that were opened in a frozen state had thawed by the time they reached the MPF. Many of the secondary waste materials at JACADS were stored until the end of operations, at which time they were to be fed either to the MPF or the deactivation furnace system (DFS) or disposed of off site. Secondary wastes, such as demilitarization protective ensemble (DPE) suits, dunnage, and spent carbon media from air treatment filters for building exhaust, were tested in the MPF. Some secondary wastes were reportedly destroyed effectively, although the committee did not receive detailed confirming data. Brine produced as a by-product of the neutralization of acidic off-gases with caustic was shipped from Johnston Island for off-site disposal. Another secondary waste, spent decontamination solution, was charged to the afterburner of the liquid incinerator during ongoing operations. After reviewing the lessons learned at JACADS, the committee judged them to be a valid basis for defining design improvements for a modified baseline process at Pueblo, including initiation of planning for closure during the facility design stage. MODIFIED BASELINE PROCESS The modified baseline process, discussed in some detail in this report, is a disposal option that can potentially destroy the Pueblo stockpile more rapidly than the baseline system. The main difference between the modified baseline process and the baseline incineration system is that fewer furnaces will be used—in fact, only one furnace is included in the most basic conceptualization of the modified process. Instead of the heavy on-site containers used at TOCDF to transport munitions from the storage igloos to the unloading dock of a two-story munitions demilitarization building (MDB), the proposed design calls for using modified ammunition vans at Pueblo to transport munitions to a single-story MDB. Energetics (propellant, fuzes, bursters) will be removed from the munitions using projectile/mortar disassembly machines. If possible, uncontaminated energetics will be sent off site to a treatment, storage, and disposal facility. If this is not allowed, a separate DFS may have to be added to process them. If agent has penetrated the outside wall of the munition itself or the burster cavity, the munition is called a “leaker.”

OCR for page 1
A Modified Baseline Incineration Process for Mustard Projectiles at Pueblo Chemical Depot Among 94,000 mustard rounds at JACADS, 81 leakers were found, suggesting that the number of leakers at Pueblo may also be small. Leakers have been and will be overpacked in sealed containers and subsequently will be destroyed, most likely in the metal parts furnace. Munitions, with their energetics removed, will then be moved by conveyer into freezers, where the contained agent will be frozen. Specialized machines (to be developed) will then drill a hole into, cut, or punch the projectiles to access the agent. The frozen, opened munitions will be placed in trays that will be conveyed through a four-zone MPF, in which the agent will be thermally oxidized to a destruction and removal efficiency (DRE) of 99.9999 percent. Decontaminated (5X)1 metal shells will be shipped off site for disposal as scrap metal. Acidic gases from the MPF afterburner will be sent through a pollution abatement system (PAS), where the acids will be neutralized with caustic solution in a scrubber. Any brine produced will be shipped off site if possible. The gases (and some remaining particulate matter) will be cooled and dehumidified in another scrubber with a demister, reheated with gas-fired heaters, and drawn by two induced-draft fans in series through the PAS filter system (PFS) that includes HEPA filters both upstream and downstream of carbon filters. The modified MPF is expected to have a higher throughput rate than the MPF in the baseline system if the proposed HEP A filters in the PFS prove adequate to meet emission limits at higher throughput rates. Agent will not be removed from the munitions (as it is in the baseline incineration system), and the MPF in the modified baseline process has four zones (instead of the three-zone MPF in the baseline system) in order to process the mustard agent in the munitions more productively. The PFS planned for the modified process (and for some baseline systems) is expected to provide additional protection against the release of metals, metallic compounds, and undesirable organics to the atmosphere. However, PFS tests have not yet been conducted at the Anniston, Pine Bluff, and Umatilla baseline facilities, all of which are nearing the systemization phase. Therefore, the capability to meet the Pueblo air emissions limits has not been demonstrated. Mechanical and operational process improvements based on lessons learned at these sites could be incorporated into both the MPF and PAS/PFS designs for the modified baseline process at Pueblo. Procedures for monitoring agent and handling secondary waste are similar in the baseline system and the modified baseline process. Careful measurements of agent levels will be taken at many locations in the MDB and around the perimeter of the PUCDF. Secondary wastes will be burned in the MPF or shipped off site. Because only one or at most two furnaces would be necessary for the modified baseline process (instead of the three to five in a baseline incineration system—one or more separate furnaces for liquid agent, metal parts, energetic materials, and dunnage or packing materials), the modified baseline process will probably be simpler. Until additional analyses associated with the Phase 1 quantitative risk assessment and the health risk assessment (HRA) are completed, there are insufficient data to quantify the safety of the modified baseline process relative to the baseline system. EVALUATION OF THE MODIFIED BASELINE PROCESS The Stockpile Committee was asked to evaluate the modified baseline process in time for the environmental impact assessment proceedings during the summer of 2001. It therefore based its evaluation on data and information received through March 2001. When this report was prepared for publication, the modified baseline process was still undergoing design and development changes. Under these conditions, the committee tried to present its findings and recommendations in terms that will be useful to the Army as design and development proceeds. Some alternatives for a final process design for Pueblo are also offered. Overall, the modified baseline process concept is likely to be a workable means of destroying the assembled chemical munitions stockpile at Pueblo. As previously noted, the modified baseline process is based on the extensive lessons learned from the processing of mustard agent munitions at JACADS. Even so, some development work will be necessary. The committee believes that with rigorous planning and execution these tasks can be accomplished. Whether all aspects of the new process, from design through destruction of the Pueblo stockpile, can be accomplished in time to meet the CWC deadline of April 29, 2007, is not certain, because obtaining permits and proving the modified baseline process may be more difficult and time consuming than anticipated by the Army. The introduction of frozen agent into the MPF is an element of the modified process that will either have to be tested and developed further or eliminated. In addition, the equipment for accessing agent in frozen munitions and verifying that it has been accessed will have to be developed and proven. In the following sections, the findings and recommendations that appear throughout the report are summarized. 1   The use of 5X indicates that an item has been decontaminated completely of the indicated agent and may be released for general use or sold to the general public in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. An item is decontaminated completely when it has been subjected to procedures that are known to completely degrade the agent molecule, or when analyses, submitted through Army channels for approval by the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board, have shown that the total quantity of agent is less than the minimal health effects dosage as determined by the Surgeon General. A 5X condition must be certified by the commander or designated representative. One approved method is heating the item to 538°C (1,000°F) for 15 minutes. This is considered sufficient to destroy chemical agent molecules.

OCR for page 1
A Modified Baseline Incineration Process for Mustard Projectiles at Pueblo Chemical Depot Summary of Findings More than 95,000 mustard projectiles were successfully processed in the MPF at JACADS. A 1999 trial burn of the JACADS MPF demonstrated a DRE of 99.9999 percent for agent. This suggests that the modified baseline process, in which munitions are charged to the MPF, can destroy the mustard agent munitions at Pueblo Chemical Depot if the MPF can be shown to handle frozen projectiles safely and effectively. The MPF is a crucial component of the modified baseline process, and its design and size will be critical; it has been expanded from the three-zone configuration used at JACADS to a four-zone configuration for Pueblo. The modified baseline process possesses many attributes identical to those of the baseline incineration system used at JACADS and TOCDF. Several features have been modified substantially, however, to address the problem of foaming encountered at JACADS when mustard munitions were opened prior to processing. In the modified baseline process, munitions will be frozen before they are drilled, cut, or punched open. In a test at JACADS, only a small number of partially frozen munitions (and no fully frozen munitions) were put through the MPF. Therefore, data on the destruction in the MPF of agent in frozen rounds will be essential. However, thawed munitions could be processed, as at JACADS, without significant additional data. Whether data can be obtained (and regulatory approval completed) without affecting the schedule is an open question. The machinery for opening frozen rounds would still have to be developed, pass performance tests, and be manufactured. In the 1999 trial burn with mustard munitions at JACADS, emissions of mercury and cadmium exceeded regulatory standards. Newer facilities are equipped with a PFS, which would also be used at Pueblo. This system may be sufficient to bring the emissions to regulatory levels. Tests of such a system are planned in the near future. Monitoring systems for agent and stack emissions used at baseline system facilities, in conjunction with a third (standby) automatic continuous air monitoring system (ACAMS) in the area of the MPF, appear to be adaptable for use with a modified baseline process at Pueblo. By the time Pueblo operations begin, developments in the real-time monitoring of environmentally sensitive metals, dioxins, and products of incomplete combustion may make more frequent monitoring of these substances possible. If not, the Army could conduct stack tests at suitable intervals to provide evidence to the surrounding communities that the modified baseline process is working properly. Treatment of secondary wastes at Pueblo will be an important issue. Some secondary wastes (dunnage and DPE suits) were successfully processed through the MPF at JACADS. Although the same processing is planned in the modified baseline process, supporting data and information were not available to the committee. Spent decontamination solution was charged to a liquid incinerator afterburner at JACADS. There will be a similar afterburner for the MPF of the modified baseline process available for such use. Spent filter carbon may be micronized (ground into fine particles) and burned as planned at JACADS or shipped off site. Here again, a similar method of disposal may be employed at Pueblo. The current plan for a modified baseline process at Pueblo calls for shipping agent-free energetics to off-site destruction facilities, and negotiations with regulatory agencies and outside disposal facilities are under way. If off-site shipment is not permitted, an on-site DFS will be used; if the decision to use a DFS is delayed, it could adversely affect the project schedule. Problems with the closure of JACADS are proof of the importance of planning for closure at the beginning of any chemical agent disposal project. However, there is no evidence of planning for closure of the Pueblo facility. In general, preproject planning is a key ingredient of successful large projects. OMB Circulars A-94 and A-11 provide guidance for the performance of government agencies on such projects, particularly with regard to schedules and risk analyses. Compliance with these circulars enhances the chances of keeping a project on schedule. The Phase 1 quantitative risk assessment for Pueblo and several other stockpile sites with assembled chemical munitions completed several years ago showed that the stockpile at Pueblo presents risk to public health several orders of magnitude lower than any other site. This is because it contains only mustard agent, which is less volatile than other agents, and therefore would not be carried very far in the event of a fire or explosion. Nevertheless, the Army has undertaken several risk and safety assessments to meet the legislative requirement that the technology chosen for Pueblo be as safe as or safer than the baseline system. The committee believes that the incineration technologies under consideration will have very low risk and will meet reasonable interpretations of safety criteria, even if the actual risk numbers marginally exceed the baseline criteria. Finally, the committee identified ways the Army and its contractors can communicate better with the stakeholders at Pueblo. Although the overall public involvement effort of the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization has improved, more can be done in this area. Summary of Recommendations The modified baseline process with a single four-zone MPF shows considerable promise and should be considered for destroying the Pueblo stockpile. Certain features of the process do require additional study, as recommended below. Freezing may be an effective way to minimize the frothing that sometimes occurs when mustard projectiles are cut open; but in view of past experiences and alternative plans at other baseline system facilities, the Army should determine if this is the best approach. If freezing is determined to be the

OCR for page 1
A Modified Baseline Incineration Process for Mustard Projectiles at Pueblo Chemical Depot optimal approach, experimental data on processing frozen rounds through an MPF should be developed. The new machinery for opening frozen rounds and verifying that they are open should be thoroughly tested to ensure that the agent cavity will be opened consistently. The time required to acquire this information and to obtain regulatory approval for treating frozen rounds in the MPF could jeopardize the project schedule. The Army should take this possibility into account and make appropriate plans, including allowing the frozen rounds to thaw, thereby duplicating the limited experience at JACADS. The Army should develop a process and schedule, including uncertainties in the permitting process, to determine the latest point in time when a decision can be made either to ship energetics off site or to dispose of them in a DFS and still meet the CWC treaty deadline. Tests should be undertaken to verify that stack emissions of heavy metals would be limited to acceptable levels by whatever technology is selected. The Army should also evaluate state-of-the-art tools for the continuous monitoring of emissions of metals, dioxins, and the products of incomplete combustion and, if practicable, install them at Pueblo. The Army should review the data from JACADS on the processing of secondary wastes in the MPF and obtain more data, if necessary, to determine if the MPF in a modified baseline process can treat them satisfactorily. Plans for treating all secondary wastes, including DPE suits, dunnage, spent decontamination solution, and spent carbon, should be completed. The Army should initiate closure planning for Pueblo as soon as practicable. For preproject and project planning, the Army should follow the requirements of OMB Circulars A-94 and A-11 for capital projects and develop detailed plans. Necessary risk studies should be completed as quickly as possible. Before the HRA is completed, the Army should work with the Pueblo stakeholders to decide how the risk of a modified baseline process facility compares with that of a baseline incineration system facility. This will require that the Army increase and improve its communications with stakeholders. Finally, the Army should make safety the number one objective in the construction, systemization, operation, and closure of the Pueblo Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.