Executive Summary

In 1996, the U.S. Congress enacted two laws, Public Law 104-201 (authorization legislation) and Public Law 104-208 (appropriation legislation), mandating that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) conduct an assessment of alternative technologies to the baseline incineration process for the demilitarization of assembled chemical munitions. In December 1996, DOD appointed Mr. Michael Parker, Technical Director of the Soldier Biological Chemical Command, to be the program manager for assembled chemical weapons assessment (PMACWA). The program manager published a request for proposals for the complete destruction of assembled chemical weapons. On July 29, 1998, three technology packages were selected for the demonstration phase of the ACWA program. Constrained by both time and resources, the PMACWA selected the unit operations deemed “most critical [and] least proven” for demonstration testing.

The PMACWA had previously requested that the National Research Council (NRC) perform and publish an independent evaluation of the seven technologies packages that had been selected during earlier phases of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program and deliver a report by September 1, 1999. However, to meet that deadline, the NRC Committee on Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons (ACW Committee) had to terminate its data-gathering activities on March 15, 1999, prior to the completion of demonstration tests. In September 1999, the PMACWA requested that the ACW Committee examine the reports of the demonstration tests and determine if the results changed the committee’ s original findings, recommendations, and comments. This report documents the committee’s reassessment of the findings and recommendations in the original report, Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons.

In this supplemental report, the committee limited its review to the demonstration test reports prepared by the technology providers and the PMACWA’s Supplemental Report to Congress, which included the PMACWA’s technical evaluation of the tests as a separate appendix. The committee limited its evaluation to the effects of the demonstration test results on the earlier report.

The three technology demonstrations are reviewed in separate chapters in this report; in each chapter, the demonstrated unit operations are considered one at a time. Following a short description of the demonstration tests and commentary by the committee, the findings and recommendations from the original report that bear on the demonstrations are then evaluated. In general, very few of the original findings and recommendations were influenced by the demonstrations. In some cases, the original findings and recommendations were confirmed. A number of new findings and recommendations resulted from the demonstrations, however, and these are presented below.

SUPPLEMENTAL FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Burns and Roe Demonstration Tests

Finding BR-1. The plasma torch apparatus, as demonstrated by the Burns and Roe team, is not qualified for further consideration for the demilitarization of assembled chemical weapons. The torch design appears to be unreliable for extended use. Furthermore, the design increases the possibility of a catastrophic water leak, which could produce a significant increase in pressure in the plasma waste converter (PWC), and possibly cause an explosion, which, in turn, could expose personnel to chemical agent. Moreover, the effectiveness of the monitoring and control sensors was not demonstrated.

Finding BR-2. Even after more than a year of research and development, the technology provider has not been able to



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Evaluation of Demonstration Test Results of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: A Supplemental Review Executive Summary In 1996, the U.S. Congress enacted two laws, Public Law 104-201 (authorization legislation) and Public Law 104-208 (appropriation legislation), mandating that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) conduct an assessment of alternative technologies to the baseline incineration process for the demilitarization of assembled chemical munitions. In December 1996, DOD appointed Mr. Michael Parker, Technical Director of the Soldier Biological Chemical Command, to be the program manager for assembled chemical weapons assessment (PMACWA). The program manager published a request for proposals for the complete destruction of assembled chemical weapons. On July 29, 1998, three technology packages were selected for the demonstration phase of the ACWA program. Constrained by both time and resources, the PMACWA selected the unit operations deemed “most critical [and] least proven” for demonstration testing. The PMACWA had previously requested that the National Research Council (NRC) perform and publish an independent evaluation of the seven technologies packages that had been selected during earlier phases of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program and deliver a report by September 1, 1999. However, to meet that deadline, the NRC Committee on Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons (ACW Committee) had to terminate its data-gathering activities on March 15, 1999, prior to the completion of demonstration tests. In September 1999, the PMACWA requested that the ACW Committee examine the reports of the demonstration tests and determine if the results changed the committee’ s original findings, recommendations, and comments. This report documents the committee’s reassessment of the findings and recommendations in the original report, Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons. In this supplemental report, the committee limited its review to the demonstration test reports prepared by the technology providers and the PMACWA’s Supplemental Report to Congress, which included the PMACWA’s technical evaluation of the tests as a separate appendix. The committee limited its evaluation to the effects of the demonstration test results on the earlier report. The three technology demonstrations are reviewed in separate chapters in this report; in each chapter, the demonstrated unit operations are considered one at a time. Following a short description of the demonstration tests and commentary by the committee, the findings and recommendations from the original report that bear on the demonstrations are then evaluated. In general, very few of the original findings and recommendations were influenced by the demonstrations. In some cases, the original findings and recommendations were confirmed. A number of new findings and recommendations resulted from the demonstrations, however, and these are presented below. SUPPLEMENTAL FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Burns and Roe Demonstration Tests Finding BR-1. The plasma torch apparatus, as demonstrated by the Burns and Roe team, is not qualified for further consideration for the demilitarization of assembled chemical weapons. The torch design appears to be unreliable for extended use. Furthermore, the design increases the possibility of a catastrophic water leak, which could produce a significant increase in pressure in the plasma waste converter (PWC), and possibly cause an explosion, which, in turn, could expose personnel to chemical agent. Moreover, the effectiveness of the monitoring and control sensors was not demonstrated. Finding BR-2. Even after more than a year of research and development, the technology provider has not been able to

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Evaluation of Demonstration Test Results of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: A Supplemental Review TABLE ES-1 Summary Evaluation of the Maturity of Demonstrated Unit Operations and Processes a   Hydrolysates Agent Munitions   Unit Operation/Process VX/GB HD Energetics VX/GB HD Energetics Other Burns and Roe               Plasma waste converter b C C D D D E C c , d , e General Atomics               Hydrolysis       A A     Rotary hydrolyzer           C   Shredding/hydropulping             A c SCWO B B C       C c Parsons-AlliedSignal               Munitions accessing       B B B   Hydrolysis       A A C   Biotreatment D A A         Catalytic oxidation             B e Metal parts treater       B B D B d Note: Environmental and safety issues were considered in assigning maturity categorizations. Schedule and cost issues were not considered. a The letter designations are defined as follows (a blank space indicates categorization was not applicable for that material). A Demonstration provides sufficient information to allow moving forward to full-scale design with reasonable probability of success. B Demonstration provides sufficient information to allow moving forward to the pilot stage with reasonable probability of success. C Demonstration indicates that unit operation or process requires additional refinement and additional demonstration before moving forward to pilot stage. D Not demonstrated; more R&D required. E Demonstrated unit operation or process is inappropriate for treatment. b Includes integrated gas polishing system to support demonstration c Dunnage d Metal parts e Effluents show that its small PWC can adequately destroy agent simulants or that nitrogen is the best gas to use for the plasma feed. If oxygen leaks into the reactor, it could react violently with hydrogen. If air were used for the plasma feed gas, regulatory compliance issues would arise, as well as questions of public acceptance. Finding BR-3. In the absence of any data for processing effluents from agent runs, the committee could not validate the ability of the proposed system to handle and stabilize effluent products arising from agent processing. General Atomics Demonstration Tests Finding GA-1. Testing on the hydrolysis of energetic materials contaminated with agent will be necessary before a fullscale system is built and operated. Finding GA-2. Testing will be required to verify that the larger diameter supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) reactor feed nozzles will be capable of accepting the dunnage material as shredded (i.e., without additional classification and segregation) and that the reactor will perform reliably under these conditions. Recommendation GA-1. Operation of the size reduction and slurrying system, and long-term operation of the supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) reactor with slurry, should be conducted before proceeding with a full-scale system. Recommendation GA-2. Before construction of a full-scale supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) system, additional evaluations of construction materials and fabrication techniques will be necessary because corrosion and plugging prevent continuous operation with the present design. If the new construction materials do not solve these problems, then alternative SCWO reactor designs should be investigated. Recommendation GA-3. To determine the operability of the supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) reactor and the reliability of the materials of construction, long duration runs of a SCWO reactor should be conducted with slurry, with energetics hydrolysate, and with agent hydrolysate before full-scale implementation proceeds.

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Evaluation of Demonstration Test Results of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: A Supplemental Review Recommendation GA-4. The efficacy and safety of the additional step to remove aluminum hydroxide from the hydrolysate produced from rocket propellants should be evaluated prior to construction of a full-scale supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) system. Recommendation GA-5. Decontamination of solid munitions materials by flushing and immersion should be demonstrated prior to full-scale implementation. Recommendation GA-6. The air emissions data from the demonstration tests should be used in a screening risk assessment. The results of the air effluent samples should be subject to (1) a human health risk assessment following the Human Health Risk Assessment Protocol (HHRAP) for Hazardous Waste Combustion Facilities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [EPA530-D-98-001(A,B,C)], and (2) an ecological risk assessment following a protocol that will be released by EPA in the very near future. Parsons-AlliedSignal Demonstration Tests Finding PA-1. The mustard demonstration tests were very encouraging and showed that the process is ready for the next scale-up. Finding PA-2. The nerve agent demonstration tests had serious problems. However, if the previous tests at the technology provider’s laboratory and the results of the demonstration tests are combined, the aggregate results are inconclusive. The reason for the poor demonstration results might be as simple as poor aeration in the bioreactor (see Recommendation PA- 1). Recommendation PA-1. Before proceeding to a further scale-up of GB and VX biotreatment processing, the committee recommends that the following steps be taken: The biotreatment process should be examined carefully at bench scale to determine the factors that are critical to success. An investigation of analytical techniques should be undertaken to provide more reliable process information. Supplemental General Findings The results of the demonstration tests did not significantly affect the committee’s original general findings and recommendations and, in some cases, confirmed them. The committee’s review of the results of the demonstration tests, however, led to the following new general findings. General Finding 1. Based on the committee’s assessment of the maturity of the various unit operations (as summarized in Table ES-1 ), none of the three technology packages is ready for integrated pilot programming, although certain unit operations are sufficiently mature to bypass pilot testing (e.g., hydrolysis of agent). General Finding 2. The demonstration tests were not operated long enough to demonstrate reliability and long-term operation. General Finding 3. The committee reiterates that none of the unit operations has been integrated into a complete system. The lack of integration remains a major concern as a significant obstacle to full-scale implementation.