Propellant to be removed from nerve-agent rockets at Army depot in Madison County

gkocher1@herald-leader.comMarch 23, 2014 

The Army is scheduled to begin removing propellant sections from 44 nerve-agent rockets Monday at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County.

The Army wants to test and verify the stability of the propellants in those rockets so it can determine whether the destruction of those motor sections should be done in the plant that is now under construction at the depot or elsewhere on the depot.

It will take about a month to separate the propellant sections from the rockets, Karl Slaughenhaupt, chief of operations for Blue Grass Chemical Activity, said at a meeting earlier this month. A team will unscrew the motor sections from the rocket assemblies inside a storage igloo, an earthen bunker, that was converted into a work site.

The igloos at the depot have ventilation systems that capture any vapor if nerve agent is released.

The workers performing the separations will be dressed in protective clothing, and a medical response team will be on site at all times.

Twenty-five of the rocket motors will be sent to the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Picatinny, N.J. The other 19 will remain at Blue Grass Army Depot to await further testing.

All actions will be performed under direct oversight of qualified personnel.

A similar operation to separate motors from rockets was conducted at the depot in the 1980s.

Similar operations were also performed at two other weapons storage and disposal sites in Umatilla, Ore., and Pine Bluff, Ark.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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