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Date:  Nov. 16, 2006

Contacts:  Patrice Pages, Media Relations Officer

Sarah Morocco, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

U.S. Army Could Benefit From Foreign Technologies

For Faster Destruction of Recovered Chemical Weapons

 

WASHINGTON -- To facilitate destruction of buried chemical warfare materiel, the U.S. Army should consider adopting a faster and more efficient technology -- such as one of those currently used in Europe or Japan -- to complement the ones it currently uses, says a new report from the National Research Council.  The new technique would be used primarily to destroy whole chemical munitions from large burial sites, said the committee that wrote the report.  

 

"Many technologies used in Europe and Japan destroy chemical munitions faster than those used in the United States, and they are as safe and sometimes more environmentally friendly," said Richard Ayen, committee chair and retired director of technology, Waste Management Inc., Houston.  "If the U.S. Department of Defense decides to expedite the destruction of the large amounts of chemical weapons still buried in many parts of the country, using one of these technologies will be essential."  

 

The report looks at technologies that can destroy entire munitions -- rockets, land mines, mortars, and projectiles -- and those that can handle only chemical agents, such as nerve and blister agents.  The committee urged the Army to consider three choices for eliminating whole munitions.  The Controlled Detonation Chamber (CDC) technology -- developed by DeMil International Inc. of Alabama and used only in Europe -- places explosives around the munitions and then detonates them in a tightly sealed chamber.  The Detonation of Ammunition in a Vacuum-Integrated Chamber (DAVINCH) technology, developed by Kobe Steel in Japan, works in a similar way.  Another technique -- developed by Swedish company Dynasafe AB -- detonates munitions in a kiln heated to temperatures between 400 degrees Celsius and 600 degrees Celsius.  

 

The CDC technology can destroy more than 10 times as many weapons at once as the Explosive Destruction System (EDS) currently used by the Army, and unlike the EDS it generates little or no liquid waste.  The same is true for the DAVINCH system, which has the highest "explosive containment capacity" -- a measure of the amount of explosives that can be detonated without damaging the system -- of the three foreign technologies.  The Dynasafe technology can destroy many small munitions quickly but has a relatively low containment capacity similar to that of the EDS.  The Army should collect information on the performance, safety, and cost of these methods to determine which approach would best meet U.S. needs, the report says.  

 

Among the other technologies reviewed by the committee were two that are used to process chemical agents not contained in munitions.  These technologies were not recommended because they would raise environmental concerns if used in the United States and may not be publicly acceptable, the report says.  One method, developed in Russia, chemically processes agents to render them harmless but generates a large amount of secondary waste.  Moreover, no information is available yet on the long-term stability of these residues. 

 

The other technology incinerates the agents.  Although incineration is widely used in the United States to destroy stockpiled chemical weapons, it would be less safe to use on formerly buried weapons because of their deteriorated condition, which also lowers the method's acceptability among some members of the public, the report says.  Incineration technologies used in other countries require operators to handle parts of the munitions -- unlike U.S. incineration techniques, which use robotic equipment to do so.

 

Since the early 1990s, the United States has been destroying chemical warfare materiel recovered from burial sites to meet an April 2007 deadline specified by the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Destruction of this materiel is well under way, but much remains buried at 63 known locations and other unknown ones throughout the country.  This still-buried materiel is not subject to CWC requirements until it is unearthed, at which point it must be officially declared and destroyed "as soon as possible."  The technologies investigated by the committee could help eliminate these recovered weapons more quickly and efficiently than methods currently used in the United States.  

 

The committee also investigated foreign technologies for locating and excavating buried chemical weapons but did not find any with which the Army was not already familiar.  Some sensing capabilities -- including the use of artificial noses, robotic systems, and dogs trained to sense weapons -- are promising but not yet ready to be deployed, the committee concluded.

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Army.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  A committee roster follows.

 

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[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]

 

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Board on Army Science and Technology

 

Committee on Review and Evaluation of International Technologies for the

Destruction of Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel

 

Richard J. Ayen (chair)

Director of Technology

Waste Management Inc. (retired)

Sebring, Fla.

 

Robin L. Autenrieth

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Texas A&M University

College Station

 

Adrienne T. Cooper

Assistant Professor

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Temple University

Philadelphia

 

Martin Gollin

Process Design Manager

Carmagen Engineering Inc.

St. Davids, Pa.

 

Gary S. Groenewold

Senior Scientist

Idaho National Laboratory

Idaho Falls

 

Paul F. Kavanaugh

Independent Consultant

Construction and Engineering Management

Fairfax, Va.

 

Todd A. Kimmell

Principal Investigator

Environmental Science Division

Argonne National Laboratory

Gaithersburg, Md.

 

Loren D. Koller

Independent Consultant

Environmental Health and Toxicology

Loren Koller & Associates LLC

Corvallis, Ore.

 

Douglas M. Medville

Program Leader

Chemical Materiel Disposal and Remediation

MITRE Corp. (retired)

Reston, Va.

 

George W. Parshall*

Chemical Sciences Director

E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. (retired)

Wilmington, Del.

 

James P. Pastorick

President

UXO Pro Inc.

Alexandria, Va.

 

Leonard M. Siegel

Director

Center for Public Environmental Oversight

Mountain View, Calif.

 

William J. Walsh

Attorney

Pepper Hamilton LLP

Washington, D.C.

 

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

 

Harrison T. Pannella

Study Director

 

                                                                                 

* Member, National Academy of Sciences