Tooele Army Depot receives permit to operate Hydrolysis System

By Kathy Anderson
Tooele Army Depot Public Affairs

Through a partnership established in 2001 to develop a new and innovative process to provide an environmentally friendly method for the demilitarization of small aluminum bodied munitions, Tooele Army Depot (TEAD) received an operating permit Jan. 26 from Utah state officials allowing for operation for the Cartridge Actuated Device - Hydrolysis Prototype Production Plant (CAD HPPP).

The CAD HPPP, also known as the Hydrolysis System, was made possible through a collaborative effort between TEAD in Utah, Joint Munitions Command (JMC), at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., the Defense Ammunition Center (DAC), in McAllister, Okla., air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL), at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and General Atomics (GA), out of San Diego, Calif.

The CADs and Propellant Activated Devices (PADS) that needed to be destroyed and disposed of properly are small explosive or propellant-filled devices used to shear the bolts and propel the ejection seats away from the aircraft. These devices range in size from 2 inches to A,A1/2 inch. They are shelf life coded items which requires them to be removed from service on a regular basis. Tooele currently stores these expired devices in large quantities.

The previous process of destroying the CADs and PADs was completed through open burn/open detonation, which was very labor intensive and sometimes ineffective. Smaller munitions would scatter throughout the range where they were destroyed and would sometimes require reprocessing. A deactivation furnace was also used; however, the feed rate was so low it became uneconomical to continue.

In early 2005, GA and TEAD developed a 3000 square foot facility at the depot where the aluminum bodied munitions are fed to the CAD HPPP in batches weighing up to 122 pounds and staggered every 30 minutes. The CAD HPPP uses a sodium hydroxide solution to dissolve the aluminum casing and exposes the energetic materials contained within. The sodium hydroxide solution then reacts with the energetic materials, breaking them down and rendering them inert.

"Working with Tooele, AFRL, JMC and DAC has been a great experience for General Atomics. Together, we were able to develop a new demil production technology that addresses a real problem for the depot," stated Louie Wong, Deputy Project Manager, Advanced Process Systems, General Atomics.

Demilitarization production began on Feb. 12, during the visit of Brig. Gen. Larry Wyche, JMC Commanding General. Since activation, the CAD HPPP system has destroyed over 360 tons of CADS.

Testing began on Feb. 17, for additional types of CADs that are able to undergo hydrolysis process. Nineteen have been tested with 38 remaining to be completed. During a follow-on meeting, Mar. 17, new munitions were discussed for demilitarization in the Hydrolysis System.

In the future, TEAD will be able to identify and test new aluminum bodied munitions using the munitions screening methods developed by GA.

"This new technology has generated two major things for, not only TEAD, but for the entire Enterprise; it has freed up valuable storage space for new warfighter munitions and provided a new environmentally friendly method of disposing of obsolete munitions. This is the first new technology in demil that has been developed in two decades, "stated Dee Russell, Project Manager, Tooele Army Depot.

In addition to the design, testing, training and installation of the Hydrolysis System, the partnership between TEAD, GA, AFRL, DAC and JMC continues. Tooele is in the process of installing an Industrial Supercritical Water Oxidation (iSCWO) System. The iSCWO technology is a liquid waste processing system for hazardous waste. The iSCWO system at Tooele is designed to process up to three gallons per minute of liquids. The spent caustic hydrolysate from the CAD HPPP will be neutralized with an acid solution and fed to the iSCWO system for complete waste destruction. The liquid wastes fed to the iSCWO system are oxidized and converted to water, CO2, and inert salts. Tooele and GA plan to study recycling the water and salts for other use on the base.

To date, a building has been constructed at TEAD to house the iSCWO equipment. The iSCWO system has been assembled and is in storage at Tooele. GA has requested additional funding to complete the installation of equipment.

"We (GA) intend to continue the partnership with Tooele to expand their demil capabilities and to develop their expertise in CAD HPPP processing systems," said Wong. "Once we complete the installation of the iSCWO system, Tooele will be able to process their hydrolysate waste on the depot and will no longer have to send it off-site for disposal."

Wong also said the partners will continue their collaboration to develop new technologies and to address other demilitarization processes.