1

Introduction

BACKGROUND

In 1996, the U.S. Congress enacted two laws, Public Law 104-201 (authorization) and Public Law 104-208 (appropriation), 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 weapons and that not less than two technologies be demonstrated. The law included the following stipulations:

  • All funds for the construction of destruction facilities at Blue Grass Depot in Richmond, Kentucky, and at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colorado, should be frozen.

  • DOD should select a program manager who was not and had never been associated with the ongoing incineration destruction.

  • DOD should “coordinate” with the National Research Council.

In December 1996, DOD appointed Michael Parker, technical director of the Soldier Biological Chemical Command, to be the program manager for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) Program (PMACWA). On July 28, 1997, after organizing a staff and establishing a program plan, the PMACWA published a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a “ total system solution” for the destruction of assembled chemical weapons without using incineration. Twelve proposals were submitted in September 1997. Of these, seven were found to have proposed total system solutions and to have passed the threshold requirements stipulated in the RFP. On July 29, 1998, after an elaborate multitiered selection process, three technology packages were selected for demonstration testing. Detailed descriptions of the selection process and all seven technologies are available in the PMACWA’s two annual reports to Congress (DOD, 1997, 1998).

Constrained by both time and budgetary resources, the PMACWA identified unit operations for the three technology packages that were “most critical [and] least proven” for the demonstration tests. These unit operations had not been previously used in the disposal of chemical munitions, nor had they been integrated into a complete system for this application. Two of the three technology packages use base hydrolysis as the primary treatment step to destroy agent and energetic materials. Because most of the uncertainties concerning these technology packages pertain to the secondary treatment of products from the primary treatment step, the PMACWA provided hydrolysates for nerve agents GB and VX and mustard agent HD for testing. Approximately 1,100 gallons of GB hydrolysate and 400 gallons of VX hydrolysate were produced at the Army’s Chemical Agent Munitions Disposal System (CAMDS) experimental facility at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah. Approximately 4,200 gallons of HD hydrolysate were produced at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The agent hydrolysates provided a representative feedstock for the demonstration tests and enabled characterization of the intermediate product stream for residual agent, including Schedule 2 compounds (agent precursor compounds as defined by the international Chemical Weapons Convention).

Various types and amounts of energetic materials contained in the weapons were reacted with caustic solutions similar to those specified in the technology package proposals of the respective providers. These materials were made available for the demonstrations. Unit operations of the three technology packages were set up, and systemization (preoperational testing) was conducted from January to March 1999. The actual demonstrations began in March 1999 and were completed in May 1999. The technology providers submitted their reports on the demonstration tests to the PMACWA on June 30, 1999 (Burns and Roe, 1999a; General Atomics, 1999a; Parsons-AlliedSignal, 1999a). The PMACWA used these reports and other information to prepare a Supplemental Report to Congress, which was submitted on September 30, 1999 (DOD, 1999a).



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Evaluation of Demonstration Test Results of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: A Supplemental Review 1 Introduction BACKGROUND In 1996, the U.S. Congress enacted two laws, Public Law 104-201 (authorization) and Public Law 104-208 (appropriation), 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 weapons and that not less than two technologies be demonstrated. The law included the following stipulations: All funds for the construction of destruction facilities at Blue Grass Depot in Richmond, Kentucky, and at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colorado, should be frozen. DOD should select a program manager who was not and had never been associated with the ongoing incineration destruction. DOD should “coordinate” with the National Research Council. In December 1996, DOD appointed Michael Parker, technical director of the Soldier Biological Chemical Command, to be the program manager for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) Program (PMACWA). On July 28, 1997, after organizing a staff and establishing a program plan, the PMACWA published a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a “ total system solution” for the destruction of assembled chemical weapons without using incineration. Twelve proposals were submitted in September 1997. Of these, seven were found to have proposed total system solutions and to have passed the threshold requirements stipulated in the RFP. On July 29, 1998, after an elaborate multitiered selection process, three technology packages were selected for demonstration testing. Detailed descriptions of the selection process and all seven technologies are available in the PMACWA’s two annual reports to Congress (DOD, 1997, 1998). Constrained by both time and budgetary resources, the PMACWA identified unit operations for the three technology packages that were “most critical [and] least proven” for the demonstration tests. These unit operations had not been previously used in the disposal of chemical munitions, nor had they been integrated into a complete system for this application. Two of the three technology packages use base hydrolysis as the primary treatment step to destroy agent and energetic materials. Because most of the uncertainties concerning these technology packages pertain to the secondary treatment of products from the primary treatment step, the PMACWA provided hydrolysates for nerve agents GB and VX and mustard agent HD for testing. Approximately 1,100 gallons of GB hydrolysate and 400 gallons of VX hydrolysate were produced at the Army’s Chemical Agent Munitions Disposal System (CAMDS) experimental facility at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah. Approximately 4,200 gallons of HD hydrolysate were produced at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The agent hydrolysates provided a representative feedstock for the demonstration tests and enabled characterization of the intermediate product stream for residual agent, including Schedule 2 compounds (agent precursor compounds as defined by the international Chemical Weapons Convention). Various types and amounts of energetic materials contained in the weapons were reacted with caustic solutions similar to those specified in the technology package proposals of the respective providers. These materials were made available for the demonstrations. Unit operations of the three technology packages were set up, and systemization (preoperational testing) was conducted from January to March 1999. The actual demonstrations began in March 1999 and were completed in May 1999. The technology providers submitted their reports on the demonstration tests to the PMACWA on June 30, 1999 (Burns and Roe, 1999a; General Atomics, 1999a; Parsons-AlliedSignal, 1999a). The PMACWA used these reports and other information to prepare a Supplemental Report to Congress, which was submitted on September 30, 1999 (DOD, 1999a).

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Evaluation of Demonstration Test Results of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons: A Supplemental Review The committee commends the PMACWA and his staff, as well as the support contractors and technology providers, for completing the demonstrations within the very tight time schedule. The committee recognizes that everyone involved worked long hours, including weekends, to fulfill their tasks. ROLE OF THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL The PMACWA requested that the National Research Council (NRC) perform and publish an independent evaluation of the technologies by September 1, 1999, a month before the Army’s report to Congress was due. The NRC and DOD reached agreement on the Statement of Task in March 1997, and the study was officially begun on May 27, 1997. The committee chose to evaluate all seven technology packages that had passed the threshold requirements stipulated in the RFP. The Statement of Task did not require that the NRC recommend a best technology or compare any of the technologies to the baseline incineration process in use at some storage sites. Although members of the committee visited the demonstration sites prior to systemization of the unit operations in January 1999, in order to produce its final report by September 1, 1999, data-gathering activities had to be terminated on March 15, 1999, prior to receiving the resuits of the demonstration tests. The committee’s report was submitted for peer review on May 1, 1999, and was released to the sponsor and the public on August 25, 1999 (NRC, 1999). In September 1999, the PMACWA requested that the tenure of the committee be extended to review the results of the demonstrations. The committee was asked to determine if and how the demonstration results affected the committee’s commentary, findings, and recommendations, as well as the steps required for implementation (NRC, 1999). In October 1999, the committee began its evaluation of the results of the demonstrations and a determination of the impact of these results on its initial report. The present report is an addendum to the initial report documenting the committee’s review of the demonstration test results and the impact of those results on its initial report. STATEMENT OF TASK The Statement of Task for this report is as follows: At the request of the DOD’s Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (PMACWA), the NRC Committee on Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons will continue its independent scientific and technical assessment of the three demonstrated alternative technologies for assembled chemical weapons located at the U.S. chemical weapons storage sites. The continuation of the NRC study will involve the review and evaluation of the demonstration results from the Burns and Roe, General Atomics, and ParsonsAlliedSignal tests performed by the PMACWA. The specific tasks to be performed are: use the following as the basis of information: PMACWA’s Supplemental Report to Congress issued September 30, 1999, and the “Technical Evaluation Report” (an appendix to the former report) the demonstration test reports produced by the ACWA technology providers and the associated required responses of the providers to questions from the PMACWA the PMACWA’s demonstration testing database (CD-ROM); perform an in-depth review of the data, analyses, and results of the unit operation demonstration tests contained in the above and update as necessary the committee’s 1999 NRC report, Review and Evaluation of Alternative Technologies for Demilitarization of Assembled Chemical Weapons (the ACW report); determine if the Burns and Roe, General Atomics, and Parsons-AlliedSignal technologies are viable to proceed with implementation of a pilot-scale program that would employ any of these technologies; produce a supplemental report for delivery to the Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment. SCOPE OF THIS STUDY The committee limited its review to assessing the reports mentioned in the Statement of Task. For each technology package, the committee commented on findings from the initial report that were impacted by the demonstrations (technology-specific findings not related to a demonstrated unit operation are merely noted). This report also includes new findings that may not have been apparent before the demonstration data became available. The committee did not evaluate the extent to which the demonstration tests fulfilled all of the test objectives set by the PMACWA. However, the committee commented on these objectives when they were related to the findings in the initial report (NRC, 1999). ORGANIZATION OF THIS REPORT This report consists of five chapters. This chapter has presented background information on the ACWA program and the NRC’s involvement in that program. Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , and Chapter 4 discuss the results of the demonstrations for each of the three technology packages. In each chapter, demonstration test objectives are quoted for each unit operation that was demonstrated. (The demonstration objectives are intended to provide contextual technical background [analogous to the Description of the Technology Package sections in the committee’s initial report]). Pertinent original findings are discussed, and a concise rationale is given for each of the committee ’s conclusions on the basis of its review of the documents listed in the Statement of Task. provides a discussion of the impact of demonstration test results on the original general findings and recommendations. Some new general findings based on the demonstration test results are also provided.