Newport Chemical Depot

Newport Chemical Depot

The Newport Chemical Depot, previously known as the Wabash River Ordinance Works and the Newport Army Ammunition Plant, was a bulk chemical storage and destruction facility in west central Indiana, thirty miles north of Terre Haute operated by the United States Army. The site was used as an RDX, TNT and heavy water production site and also served as the entire production site for VX in the US. The total area of the depot is 7,098 acres (28.72 km2). All chemical agents (mainly the nerve gas VX) at the site were neutralized by August 8, 2008.[1] It was the third of the Army's nine chemical depots to completely destroy its stockpile.

Contents

History

Wabash River Ordinance Works

Newport was originally founded during World War II to produce RDX, a conventional explosive. The site is 6,990 acres (28.3 km2) near the Wabash River. It was built during 1942-1943 by the E I Dupont de Nemours & Co. It was originally called the Wabash River Ordinance Works. The site was selected for the availability of labor, its proximity to a railroad line, electric power and water, its isolated location. Furthermore, the location had to be more than 200 miles (320 km) away from attack. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 14,19)

The plant, given the immediate need for RDX, was designed to use the Woolwich process. Consequently[clarification needed], the plant had less than 1/5 the production of the later Holston Ordinance Works that was based on the improved Bachmann process. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 14)

The government acquired 21,986 acres (88.97 km2) for the plant and construction started Jan 12, 1942. Production started July 20, 1942. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 21)

The plant was mothballed in 1946, but its RDX production was reactivated in 1951 for the Korean War.

Heavy water plant

In 1943-1944, the Newport Army Ammunition Plant added a heavy water plant. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 14) During the 1950s, it was used to produce heavy water for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

Production and stockpiling of Chemical weapons

In 1959, the Army built a VX facility at the site. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 16) The facility was known as the Newport Army Chemical Plant. In 1964, the Wabash River Ordinance Works and the Newport Army Chemical Plant were combined and renamed the Newport Army Ammunition Plant. (MacDonald and Mack Partnership 1984, p. 14)

Beginning in 1961, Newport became a site for chemical weapons manufacturing, producing the entire U.S. stockpile of VX nerve agent. It was next used to store and gradually neutralize the remaining 1,270 tons (1,152 tonnes) which were present when the U.S. chemical weapons program was stopped and transportation forbidden. The stored VX amounted to 4.1% of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons in 1997 when the time the Chemical Weapons Convention came into effect.

Chemical weapons disposal

The site was used as a chemical weapons destruction facility where VX was destroyed as required under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Destruction was performed on behalf of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency by Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Inc and more than 500 civilian employees work at the facility. The site has been the largest employer in Vermillion County since 1941, recently having employed 1,000 workers.[2]

Process

The unit employed neutralization for the destruction of the chemical agent. The neutralization unit consisted of a chemical reactor in which the VX was mixed with water and sodium hydroxide, heated to 194°F (90°C) and stirred using mechanical paddles. This process is a different method than the incineration which has been the primary manner of chemical agent destruction at other installations.

Delays

The start of operations was delayed several years due to problems in the arrangements of the disposal of the wastewater (which contains trace - < 20ppm - amounts of VX and 4 byproducts) which at the start of destruction had not been completely solved. Since two companies (Permafix and DuPont) did not accept the wastewater for treatment, it was stored on-site until the Army found another option. Waste was eventually shipped to Port Arthur, Texas where it was processed and incinerated by the company Veolia Envirnomental Services. A lawsuit delayed the implementation of the shipments but it was dismissed by a federal judge.[3]

VX campaign

Destruction of VX started on May 5, 2005. On August 8, 2008, the Army had destroyed all 1,269 Ton Containers of chemical agent VX (around 300,000 gallons). This represents 100% of the original Newport stockpile.[4] The agent destruction did not count as fully destroyed within the requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention until the wastewater was entirely shipped to the incineration unit.

Incidents

A few incidents have occurred during the destruction process including a 30-gallon spill of VX during processing on June 10, 2005.[5] Further incidents involved spills of the hydrolysate end product.[6] None of these incidents resulted in any injuries.

Base closure

Base closure operations were completed and the facility deactivated in June 2010, marking the first full installation closure for the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency.[7]

Timeline of VX at Newport

  • 1962-68: VX produced at Newport
  • 1969: President Richard Nixon issues a unilateral decree halting production and transport of chemical weapons, stranding the last two batches of VX at Newport
  • 1999: contract for disposal of VX awarded.
  • 2001: D Co. 1st Battalion 502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division is assigned to secure Newport shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
  • 2005, May 5: destruction of VX begins
  • 2005, October: 25 short tons (23 tonnes) destroyed, less than 2.5% of stockpile [1]
  • 2006, April: 180 tons (163 tonnes) destroyed, 14% of stockpile
  • 2006, July: 274 tons (249 tonnes) destroyed, 22% of stockpile
  • 2007, January: 470 tons (426 tonnes) destroyed, 37% of stockpile [2]
  • 2007, February: 520 tons (472 tonnes) destroyed, 41% of stockpile [3]
  • 2007, September: 834 tons (757 tonnes) destroyed, 65% of stockpile [4]
  • 2007, December: 940 tons (853 tonnes) destroyed, 74% of stockpile
  • 2008, May: 1154 tons (1047 tonnes) 91% of stockpile [5]
  • 2008, August: 1269 tons - 100% destruction of stockpile [6]

See also

  • The United States and weapons of mass destruction

References

  1. ^ http://www.cma.army.mil/fndocumentviewer.aspx?docid=003678571
  2. ^ Kelly, Deb (July 20, 2008), "End of VX neutralization process raises questions about future for Newport Chemical Depot, workers", Tribune Star (Terre Haute, IN), http://tribstar.com/local/x1155763536/End-of-VX-neutralization-process-raises-questions-about-future-for-Newport-Chemical-Depot-workers, retrieved September 10, 2010 
  3. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_6538155?nclick_check=1
  4. ^ http://www.cma.army.mil/fndocumentviewer.aspx?docid=003678571
  5. ^ http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/83/i25/8325earlygovcon.html
  6. ^ http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/84/i12/8412VX.html
  7. ^ http://www.cma.army.mil/fndocumentviewer.aspx?DocID=003683063

External links


Coordinates: 39°51′2.36″N 87°26′16.94″W / 39.8506556°N 87.4380389°W / 39.8506556; -87.4380389



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