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Summary This report responds to a request by the Program Executive Officer for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) that the National Research Council examine and evaluate options for disposal of the motors that will be separated from approximately 70,000 M55 rockets stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) that are not contaminated by the chemical nerve agent contained in the rocket warheads. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) will be responsible for destroying the chemical weapons stockpile currently being stored at BGAD. BGCAPP was designed to separate M55 rockets into warhead and motor sections and process the chemical agent warhead portion. However, BGCAPP is not designed to dispose of all of the separated rocket motors.1 This report evaluates the potential technologies and options that could be used to dispose of the separated rocket motors at a location other than BGCAPP: either on-site (at BGAD) or off-site (away from BGAD). It is important to note that, as per the statement of task, this report deals solely with separated rocket motors that will have been monitored to ensure there is no agent present above the short term exposure limit and cleared for transportation and disposal off-site. Any separated rocket motors that are determined to be contaminated by agent above the short-term exposure limit will be processed at BGCAPP. In this summary, the committee presents what it believes are its most significant findings and recommendations. The committee was composed largely of members with expertise in the destruction of conventional munitions. Accordingly, much of this report addresses the safety risks that must be taken into account when handling and disposing of the separated rocket motors. There are numerous safety risks that can impact the disposal of the separated rocket motors because they contain aged and degraded energetic materials, specifically the M28 propellant. The M55 rockets were manufactured between 1961 and 1965, meaning that the M28 propellant was between 47 and 51 years old when this report was prepared. Due to aging and degradation, the M28 propellant may have become more sensitive to shock and thermal conditions. The separated rocket motors will also be more exposed to environmental conditions, such as heat and humidity, than they were as part of an assembled rocket. This could accelerate propellant degradation and increase the safety risks. Measures can be taken, however, to address the risk of accelerated propellant degradation, among them using desiccant to control humidity and designing storage boxes so that heat dissipation is adequate. In any case, the committee believes that the separated rocket motors should be disposed of as soon as possible after rocket cutting. 1 The term separated rocket motor, as the committee uses it, is defined in Appendix A. 1
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The M55 rockets were designed at a time when the electromagnetic environment was quite different from what it is today--for example, wireless devices such as cell phones had not yet been invented. The committee believes the process of cutting the rocket creates a new motor configuration and could damage its electrical system, leaving it susceptible to risks from electromagnetic emanations and electrostatic discharge. The committee stressed that approved practices and procedures for safely handling energetic materials need to be followed and that potential new safety risks need to be evaluated. The committee also noted that the M28 propellant contains substances such as lead that could pose a safety hazard depending on the destruction technology selected and how that technology is implemented. The committee believes that a hazards analysis working group would be an important tool to address the multiple safety concerns associated with separated rocket motors. Finding 2-2. The Army's 2002 M55 Rocket Assessment Summary Report for the intact M55 rocket may not be directly applicable to the separated rocket motors. New not- readily-apparent safety risks could emerge during demilitarization operations involving the M55 rocket containing energetic materials. Finding 2-5. The current hazards to the separated rocket motors posed by electromagnetic radiation and the potential for electrostatic discharge may require verifying the condition of the igniter system after cutting before placement in the storage and shipping box. Finding 2-3. Among the vitally important approved safety practices and procedures that need to be followed in handling energetic materials are the assessment and approval of standard operating procedures and hazard analyses. They will account for potential new safety risks that emerge during the demilitarization process. Recommendation 2-3. Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant program staff should establish a hazards analysis working group to assess, analyze, and develop risk mitigation practices and procedures with specific attention to energetic materials in the overall demilitarization of the M55 rocket. In addition to reviewing disposal technologies and options, the committee was asked to examine the feasibility of recycling options for the M28 propellant. The committee concluded that recycling these aged and degraded energetic materials was not feasible based upon similar experience with conventional munitions. The committee did find that the recycling of the metal components should be considered, provided that any recycler takes appropriate precautions against lead exposure. Finding 3-1. There are no practical, useful, or cost-effective means of recycling energetic materials from the M28 propellant. Finding 3-2. It is feasible to recycle the metal components of the separated rocket motors. 2
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Recommendation 3-1. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant program staff should inform the recipient of materials for recycling of the potential for the presence of lead or lead dust on recovered materials. A significant portion of this report reviews the current technologies that could be used to dispose of the separated rocket motors. These are primarily open thermal, contained thermal, and chemical treatment options. The committee presents a comparison of advantages and disadvantages of each technology and considers the estimate of separated rocket motor throughput where available. The committee finds that a contained thermal treatment technology is the best option for disposing of the separated rocket motors. Finding 3-4. Thermal treatment demilitarization and disposal operations performed in a chamber require the least handling and permit treatment of product emissions. Chemical technologies either are not mature or are not readily implementable for the disposal of the separated rocket motors. Finding 3-7. A contained thermal technology is the best option for disposing of the rocket motors separated from the M55 rockets stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot. The storage and disposal of the separated rocket motors could both be rate- limiting factors in overall BGCAPP operations. For a variety of reasons, the disposal of the separated rocket motors will likely proceed at a slower rate than the warhead processing at BGCAPP. This necessitates the ability to store some number of separated rocket motors from the time of rocket cutting until eventual disposal. The committee is concerned that the storage space that is included in the BGCAPP design will not be sufficient and that any mishap that interrupts the disposal of the separated rocket motors could easily impact M55 rocket processing at BGCAPP. The committee discusses securing additional storage space for separated rocket motors within the BGAD area, such as converting the storage igloos in which the M55 rockets are currently stored into explosive hazardous waste units. Finding 4-1. The provision of adequate storage space for the separated rocket motors is important for the overall rate of operations for M55 rocket disposal at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. Rocket-cutting and warhead-processing operations would need to be slowed or halted if the combination of storage capacity and separated rocket motor disposal could not meet the rate at which separated rocket motors are produced. Recommendation 4-1. Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant program staff should secure additional space for storage of separated rocket motors. It is essential that discussion with Blue Grass Army Depot staff concerning the option for securing such additional space at the depot be given high priority. 3
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Finding 4-4. Reusing emptied M55 rocket storage igloos for storage of separated rocket motors is a possible solution to the problem of inadequate storage space. Pursuing this option would entail much coordination and planning and would take time. Recommendation 4-2. If a decision is made to pursue this option, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant program staff should prepare a plan to convert the M55 rocket storage igloos to hazardous waste storage sites that are also site-approved for the storage of explosives. The plan should include management of the transition without the need to submit separate approval requests one igloo at a time. When considering storage for the separated rocket motors, it should be noted that, owing to environmental and other factors, the storage risk may be greater for separated rocket motors than for an intact M55 rocket. Further, owing to the new configuration of the separated rocket motors, a new storage and transportation box may be required for packaging the separated rocket motors. Finding 4-5. Storage risk may increase more quickly in the case of separated rocket motors than assembled M55 rockets because of the increased environmental exposure of the separated motors. The effects of this environmental exposure on the separated rocket motors have not been characterized. Recommendation 4-3. Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant program staff should dispose of separated rocket motors as soon as possible, using a "first in, first out" protocol to minimize storage time and reduce risk. It is technologically feasible to dispose of the separated rocket motors on-site (at BGAD). BGAD currently operates an on-site open burn facility for the disposal of conventional munitions and has an operational (though not currently operating) D-100 detonation chamber for the same purpose. Either of these could be adapted for the disposal of separated rocket motors. It is also possible that other technologies could be established on BGAD to dispose of the separated rocket motors. Key considerations will be public acceptance of the technology chosen, obtaining the necessary permits, and balancing separated rocket motor disposal with the overall BGAD workload. One primary advantage to on-site disposal is that the transportation of the separated rocket motors would likely be much safer than moving them over public roads and simpler as well, since broader federal regulations would not apply because the entire process would take place within the BGAD boundaries. Another on-site disposal option would be the long-term storage of the separated rocket motors until BGCAPP completes all chemical agent disposal operations, meaning the separated rocket motors would be stored for several years if BGCAPP operations proceed as currently planned. The separated rocket motors could then be returned to BGCAPP for disposal at whatever rate BGCAPP could manage. The committee does not consider the last option to be the best approach in light of propellant degradation and storage risk, which are discussed in Chapters 2, 4, and 5. Finding 5-1. The Blue Grass Army Depot has a permitted, operational open-burning site that might be capable of meeting separated rocket motor disposal requirements. 4
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Finding 5-2. There are alternative disposal technologies to open burning that can be instituted at the Blue Grass Army Depot. However, the use of these alternative technologies would necessitate the inclusion of design, construction, and permitting time into the project schedule. Finding 5-3. A D-100 detonation chamber is currently operational at the Blue Grass Army Depot to dispose of conventional munitions. It is possible that this could be modified and permitted to dispose of the separated rocket motors. A number of other contained technologies are available from commercial vendors, and it might prove simpler to contract for one of these to be installed than to modify the D-100 and obtain the necessary permit modification. Finding 5-12. Transporting separated rocket motors solely on-site will be safer and easier to accomplish than transporting separated rocket motors off-site. The disposal of the separated rocket motors off-site is dependent on several factors, including the identification of an appropriate disposal facility, satisfying the pertinent environmental and transportation regulations, and gaining the acceptance of the public. Finding 5-6. There are potential technologies for the disposal of the separated rocket motors that could be used concurrently at one or more off-site disposal facilities to meet program requirements and schedule. Off-site disposal would increase flexibility in regard to choice of a specific disposal technology. The Blue Grass Chemical Agent Disposal Pilot Plant program staff would, of course, need to work with any off-site disposal facility to ensure that all relevant environmental regulations, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, are complied with. A key factor in off-site disposal is that the transportation of separated rocket motors off-site would be subject to a greater degree of transportation regulation than on- site transportation and would necessitate the design, approval, and procurement of performance-oriented packaging in which to transport the separated rocket motors. Finding 5-14. Transportation of separated rocket motors off-site must comply with federal regulations governing the transportation of hazardous materials on public thoroughfares, including the use of labeled performance-oriented packaging, which is packaging that has been tested to meet anticipated environmental and transportation stresses. Finding 5-13. All off-site disposal options necessarily require removal of the separated rocket motors from government property and transportation on public roads or railways. There are numerous federal, state, and Army regulations governing the transportation of explosive hazardous waste, permits, and safety standards that must be met. 5
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Finally, public sentiment and acceptance will be a significant factor in the ability to implement any technology to dispose of the separated rocket motors, as well in the decision whether to dispose of the separated rocket motors on-site or off-site. There is a long-standing, interested, and very knowledgeable community living and working around BGAD. This community has successfully influenced program choices regarding BGCAPP in the past and can be expected to continue to do so. Thus, while not explicit in the committee's statement of task, issues of public sentiment warrant some mention in the report. 6