RADFORD, Va. -- The Joint Munitions Command marked the start of a project that will impact the future of propellant manufacturing in North America with groundbreaking Dec. 4 for a new Nitric Acid Concentrator/Sulfuric Acid Concentrator at Radford Army Ammunition Plant.
"The purpose of the NAC/SAC is to manufacture strong nitric and sulfuric acid, which is key to the production of Nitrocellulose. The NAC/SAC will cost $103 million and is the first major modernization project to break ground at Radford," said Lt. Col. (P) Jon Drushal, Radford's commander.
"Think about the ammo in Afghanistan and Iraq, 99 percent of the small-caliber ammo contains NC from this facility," said Kent Holiday, vice president and general manager of ATK, the contractor that operates Radford.
"Radford is the sole North American source for NC. NC is the key ingredient in the manufacture of all propellants. This project is supporting conventional small, medium
and large caliber military munitions for the warfighter," said Drushal.
"Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine needs to know that the round in their rifle or artillery is going to work. When it goes downrange and hits a target, that's the Joint Munitions Command message of ready and reliable ammunition. This facility will assist in this effort," said Jyuji Hewitt, deputy to the commander for JMC.
"The new facility will provide us with improvements in efficiency, safety, and reducing impacts to the environment. It also provides us with reliability. If we don't have the NAC/SAC, we don't have NC. If we don't have NC, then we don't have propellants and you don't have bullets without propellants," said Drushal.
"The current NAC/SAC acid plant is in bad shape. It is a corrosive environment that doesn't last forever. The facility is being eaten up by its own process," said Rob Davie, the chief of Operations Division for Radford.
"The facility is 31-years-old and was built for a useful life of 25 years. Technology has also improved in the last 25 years," said Holiday.
The new NAC/SAC is scheduled to be completed in 15 months. According to Davie, it should save 240,000 pounds of steam, $460,000 of natural gas, $90,000 in labor, $50,000 in maintenance, and $64,000 in electrical usage per year.
"It comes down to the basics, it will be more cost efficient, and cost savings are important to our industrial base," said Hewitt.
"It will also allow us to recycle 3 to 4 percent more of the acid. This means that 98 percent of the acids used will now be recycled. Environmentally speaking, this is a significant improvement; there will be less waste water to be treated. Anytime we get less waste streams is a great day," Drushal said.
Radford is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility that manufactures a diverse range of propellants in support of small, medium, and large-caliber military munitions for the warfighter. Radford also creates ammo that goes directly to theater.
"A key product produced at Radford is the M-789 medium caliber round that is shot out of the Apache. Within weeks of the rounds coming off the line, they are in a gun in Iraq or Afghanistan," said Drushal.