General Atomics has designed a number of neutralization systems for demilitarization of rockets and difficult munitions. We have provided systems to neutralize energetic materials, the CADs / PADs system at Tooele Army Depot, and the Energetics Batch Hydrolyzer for the Bluegrass Army Depot chemical munition destruction facility.

Cartridge Actuated Devices and Propellant Actuated Devices

Under a cooperative effort between GA, Tooele Army Depot (TEAD), the Defense Ammunition Center (DAC), Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), and the Joint Munitions Command, a Hydrolysis Production Prototype Plant (HPPP) was constructed at TEAD. This GA technology provides TEAD the ability to demil obsolete aluminum-bodied Cartridge Actuated Devices (CADs) in an environmentally friendly manner. CADs are compact, energetic (explosives and propellants)-containing devices for which there is currently no effective disposal method. Significant quantities of these devices are currently in storage at TEAD with the inventory growing daily. The CAD HPPP allows TEAD to begin demilitarizing the inventory, thus freeing up badly needed storage space at the depot. Propellant Actuated Devices (PADs) can also be processed in the facility.

The HPPP processes approximately two tons of demil weight per day of various species of CADs. The design basis for the facility was developed from hydrolysis testing performed on aluminum-housed energetics under a DAC-sponsored CAD demil test program. The process utilizes warm sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to dissolve the aluminum containment bodies, thus exposing the energetic constituents. The same NaOH solution then hydrolyzes the energetic materials to benign, low-molecular-weight organic salts. Non-hydrolyzable “tramp” materials are removed from the bath, rinsed with fresh water, and sent to disposal after inspection for residual energetic materials. GA’s Supercritical Water Oxidation system will dispose of the spent NaOH solution. Comprehensive gaseous discharge analyses were performed to support a preliminary Screening Risk Assessment, which indicates that a PAS for the CAD HPPP gaseous discharge is not required.  A final performance verification test followed by a final TSA is planned.

(Click images to enlarge)

The plant consists of a hydrolysis tank with four processing stations. Each processing station accommodates one rotating basket. These baskets are manually loaded with CADs and then remotely placed in the hydrolysis tank. As the basket rotates, the CADs, which are totally submerged in the caustic hydrolyzing solution, are slowly tumbled through the solution for approximately two hours. At the completion of the processing time, the energetics and aluminum have been fully consumed by the warm NaOH solution. The baskets are then remotely moved to a rinse tank, where the remaining non-hydrolyzable tramp material is rinsed with water. After rinsing, the tramp materials are manually unloaded from the basket for disposal off-site. The tramp materials (typically only a small fraction of the original CAD) consist of rubber, plastics, and metal components unaffected by the hydrolysis process.

Energetics Batch Hydrolyzer (EBH)

A significant inventory of chemical munitions is stored at Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond, KY. GA is a member of the Bechtel-Parsons Bluegrass Team that is responsible for the design, construction, systemization, operation, and closure of the Bluegrass Chemical Agent Pilot Plant (BGCAPP). This facility will treat agent, explosives, and propellants in a two-step process. In the first step, chemical agents and explosives are neutralized in separate processes to nonlethal and nonexplosive materials by means of low temperature, low pressure chemical reactions. The resulting agent and energetics hydrolysates are subjected to post-treatment using supercritical water oxidation (SCWO). GA is responsible for the design, testing, and construction of Energetic Batch Hydrolyzers (EBHs) used to hydrolyze energetic components and SCWO systems for treatment of agent and energetics hydrolysates.

Development of the EBH system was based on extensive testing performed at GA to demonstrate key design and operating parameters. A full-scale mockup of the EBH drum, support structure, conveyors, and fluid transport equipment were subjected to BGCAPP operating conditions using simulated chemical munition components. The results of these tests, and others performed at U.S. Army test sites using actual chemical munition components, confirmed the effectiveness of energetics destruction via caustic hydrolysis.

EBH Drum and Support Structure

Internals of EBH Drum