New Technology Quickens Pace of Chemical Weaqpons Disposal at Umatilla
Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011
A new demilitarization technology has enabled the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon to quicken the pace at which it is eliminating its stockpile of mustard blister agent, the Hermiston Herald reported last week (see GSN, April 19).
For a time, there was concern the installation would not finish off the warfare material by the April 2012 deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention.
"We had a rough start," said Hal McCune, spokesman for URS, the firm that manages disposal operations at the Umatilla Chemical Depot.
Installation of a one-of-a-kind rinsate collection system, however, has allowed the depot to date to shave two months off its disposal schedule, McCune said.
The facility is eliminating mustard agent stored in bulk containers. The liquid material is drained from the tank and destroyed in a liquid material incinerator, while the container itself is run through the metal components furnace.
Some mustard agent can harden within the container and is loosened using a high-powered flow of heated water; the combination of fluid and solidified chemical agent is known as rinsate. There are restrictions on the level of rinsate that can be placed through the metal-parts furnace, which could slow the overall disposal process.
The rinsate collection system, however, permits the chemical mixture to be pumped through pipes to the on-site liquid furnace. McCune calculated the technology as of last week had piped 165,228 pounds of chemical mixture to the liquid incinerator.
"This really gives us the breathing room [so] we don't have to worry about it," the spokesman said.
The only two U.S. chemical weapons storage sites that have yet to begin disposal operations -- the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado -- are considering using the rinsate collection technology at their demilitarization plants, Umatilla closure engineering manager John Jackson said.
"It's technology we're able to share," he said. "They're using some of those lessons learned" (Luke Hegdal, Hermiston Herald, Aug. 16).