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New Tool Improves Safety at Pueblo Chemical Agent Plant

Joseph Deines, ordnance technician, Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, uses a custom tool to remove an ignitor cartridge from a simulated chemical-agent mortar. Credit: PEO ACWA

A new hand tool, designed and built through a partnership of organizations, is making work easier and safer for Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) operators.

“During an observation of a procedure demonstration, we noticed the operators having difficulty removing the ignitor cartridge from the mortar with the commercially available tools, due to the tight fit of the cartridge in the mortar,” said Jeff Kiley, physical scientist, Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, or PEO ACWA.

Read also: Safety Lessons Learned from a Pueblo Plant Technician

The PCAPP is being readied to start destroying more than 700,000 chemical weapons this year, and part of that destruction process includes reconfiguring some of those weapons by removing fuzes, ignitors, etc. before they can go through the neutralization phase, Kiley said.

A collaborative team was formed to develop and produce a solution among PEO ACWA, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and the systems contractor, the Bechtel Pueblo Team, Kiley said.

ECBC coordinated with the ordnance technicians at PCAPP to develop design concepts, and based on testing and worker input, developed three different versions that should improve the process of removing mortar ignitors, said Charles Steinert, mechanical engineer, ECBC.

Part of systemization, or getting the PCAPP ready to operate, involves practicing every munitions step on exact scale models of munitions, Kiley said. This practice allowed the workers and ECBC engineers to test their prototypes quickly in conditions that closely match working on real chemical agent munitions.

“The ergonomic design of the ignitor extractor tool makes it much easier to remove the ignitor without having to bend my wrist and arm in uncomfortable positions,” said Joseph Deines, ordnance technician, PCAPP.

Read also: Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant’s Medical Facility Opens

Versions of the tool range from one that is lighter and thinner for detailed work to versions that are stronger and heavier to provide more leverage. Each version of the tool, produced at ECBC’s Production Design Facility, is made from metal that doesn’t produce sparks when working with mortar components, such as Naval brass or copper alloy, Steinert said.

Using the tool to remove ignitors could potentially reduce costs, as it is expected to lessen the number of munitions that cannot easily be processed in the plant. These “rejects” would need to be destroyed by a manual process using the Explosive Destruction System, Kiley said.

Source: PEO ACWA, edited for context and format by CBRNE Central

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