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.