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Chemical Agent Disposal Facility months away from start of operation.

The U.S. Army's Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (PBCDF) and its systemization contractor, Washington Group International, are coming down the home stretch toward full operation. PBCDF, located on the Pine Bluff Arsenal, about 35 miles south of Little Rock, is scheduled to begin agent operations during the next several months.

Washington Group is under contract to build, test, operate, maintain, and eventually decommission PBCDF for the Army. The company completed construction of the $500-million-plus facility in November 2002, and has undergone extensive testing, or "systemization," leading to actual destruction of chemical agents.

The company's mission at PBCDF is to dispose of the Arsenal's chemical weapons stockpile safely, effectively, and efficiently, so that any potential risk these aging weapons present to employees, the surrounding community, and the environment is eliminated.

PBCDF will destroy approximately 3,850 tons of chemical agent, in compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty. (CWCT) of 1997. The CWCT, signed by the United States and more than 150 other nations, calls for destruction of the entire U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by 2007. A provision in the treaty could allow an extension to 2012, should that become necessary.

Pine Bluff has the second largest chemical agent stockpile in the United States, with just over 12 percent of the original U.S. inventory. The Pine Bluff stockpile consists of M55 rockets, M23 land mines, and one-ton containers, currently stored in carefully monitored igloos on the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

PBCDF will incinerate the weapons and chemical agent in three highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art furnace systems operating at high temperatures, in complete compliance with all applicable environmental standards and regulations:

The Liquid Incinerator (LIQ), which as the name implies, will safely destroy the liquid chemical agent components of stockpiled rockets, mines, and containers. It will operate at a temperature of approximately 2,700 degrees F.

The Deactivation Furnace System (DFS), which will destroy residual chemical agent and the energetic materials removed from rockets and mines. It is a rotary kiln furnace with a designed operating temperature of 2,700 degrees F.

The Metal Parts Furnace (MPF), for destroying any residual chemical agent that remains on metal components of the weapons and containers after they have been processed through the DFS. The MPF is a gas-fired furnace with three separate burning zones and a designed operating temperature of 1,400 degrees F. An afterburner will heat resulting exhaust gases to 2,000 degrees E to ensure destruction of any remaining traces of chemical agents before the air enters the Pollution Abatement System for further filtering and treatment.

After the metal is thermally decontaminated, it will be transferred to an adjacent cool-down area to a await permanent disposal.

Another major facet of PBCDF is the sophisticated Pollution Abatement System (PAS), which accounted for approximately a third of the cost of the entire facility. The PAS is designed to remove a minimum of 99.9999 percent of all toxic materials from air emissions resulting from the process prior to release into the environment.

Once the flue gasses have been cleaned and conditioned through a series of scrubbers, filters, and quenching systems, they will exit the system through a common exhaust stack. Prior to the exhaust exiting the stack, it will be monitored by three automatic continuous air-monitoring systems (ACAMS) to detect the presence of chemical agent. Two ACAMS will be online at all times, and the third will be left in a standby mode.

The effluent also will be monitored by continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) to detect the presence of other non-agent gasses such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

Major Safety Achievement

In March, Washington Group achieved a major safety milestone at PBCDF--four million hours of continuous effort without an accident resulting in a lost day away from work.

The four-million-hour milestone is compounded by the company's overall safety record at PBCDF, which includes the construction phase of the project. At the time this article was written, Washington Group employees were zeroing in on a five-million-hour milestone.

To date, Washington Group has logged a grand total of nearly 10 million hours of effort at PBCDF, with only two cases of days away from work due to accidents--neither of which resulted in permanent injury.

Company Role at Other Sites

Washington Group manages two other Army chemical weapons demilitarization facilities, at Anniston, Ala., and Umatilla, Ore. It also operated the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in the Pacific, about 800 miles southwest of Hawaii, which has completed its mission and been decommissioned. In addition, Washington Group is a subcontractor at the Army's Pueblo Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Colorado, and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky.
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Title Annotation:Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility
Comment:Chemical Agent Disposal Facility months away from start of operation.(Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 25, 2004
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