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Shchuch'ye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility

Shchuch'ye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility

Shchuch'ye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility
Shchuch'ye, Russia

The United States and the Russian Federation, with cooperation and support from the international community, have constructed a chemical weapons destruction facility near the town of Shchuch’ye, Russia. This facility will safely destroy a Cold War era stockpile of nerve agent munitions stored at the nearby Planovy military base.

Parsons is the prime contractor supporting the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency with the design, construction, systemization, and startup of the Shchuch’ye facility, which is located in a remote area of Siberia approximately 1,000 kilometers east-southeast of Moscow.

Parsons managed the design and development of prototype and full-scale demilitarization equipment to neutralize the various munitions. The design effort included developing the process and facility design to comply with both Russian and U.S. standards, including obtaining all required Russian permits.

In addition to design management, Parsons is also responsible for overall program management, which includes scope, schedule, and cost management. In 2007, Parsons proposed and implemented a solution called the “Trilateral Approach” that allowed the U.S. government to complete the project within its budget. By restructuring our procurement approach, more than $200 million was reallocated from oversight activities to construction, systemization, and startup activities. This strategic move effectively revived the program by keeping it within the budget of the U.S. government. Parsons was commended on our responsiveness to this change in direction since we effectively reduced staff and facilitated the transition to the Trilateral Approach with no interruption to the progression of ongoing construction.

Opening Ceremony

Colonel General V.P. Kapashin speaking at the May 29, 2009,
opening ceremony.

Parsons’ safety philosophy of “Zero Lost-Time Incidents” has helped the project work more than 11 million manhours without a lost-time accident. This exceptional accomplishment has been achieved despite the remote location and harsh winter working conditions at the site.

Following operational testing and certification, weapons destruction began in April 2009 in one of the munitions destruction buildings. Full production of the weapons destruction process will begin in 2012 when the second facility is completed.

Site Preparation and Construction

Because of the site’s remote location and lack of local infrastructure, this project required a “from the ground-up” effort. The site covers more than 500 acres of forest and marshland. Site development included designing and constructing approximately 20 miles of roads, as well as designing and constructing the utility system (including fire protection) and tie-ins to the regional power supply.

As design documentation was completed for the numerous process and support buildings, Parsons competitively subcontracted work to the most qualified Russian contractors and worked closely with them on issues of safety and quality.

The facility includes two munitions destruction buildings and various support structures. Each building has a destruction capacity of approximately 850 metric tons of nerve agent per year. The first building can process small- and medium-sized rocket and tube artillery; the second building will destroy small rocket and tube artillery munitions and large rocket and missile warheads.

Destruction Process

The Russian Ministry of Defense selected a two-stage destruction process of chemical agent neutralization followed by bituminization, or solidification. A joint Russian and U.S. evaluation of the selected process confirmed its safety and effectiveness in destroying better than 99.99% of agent in laboratory tests.

Munitions are sent through specially designed drill-and-drain machines to remove the nerve agent from the munitions. Russian chemical munitions are welded during assembly, therefore the reverse-assembly technology used in U.S. chemical weapons disposal facilities is unsuitable for draining the Russian chemical munitions. After the munitions are drained, they proceed through a metal parts furnace to thermally decontaminate the munitions casings. Exhaust gas from the metal parts furnace is decontaminated through a treatment process that allows the gas to be released safely from the furnace. After moving through the metal parts furnace, munitions casings are altered in accordance with the destruction requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention to ensure they can no longer be used for their original purpose.

The nerve agent drained from the munitions then undergoes the two-stage destruction process. During stage one, the nerve agent is detoxified, or chemically neutralized, by adding an organic chemical reagent. During stage two, bituminization, the neutralized agent (also known as the reaction mass), is mixed with hot petroleum asphalt and solidified. After stage two is complete, the resulting byproduct, a solid waste called bitumen salt mass, is contained in steel barrels and placed in a bunker designed specifically to reduce the risks of environmental contamination and exposure to the workers and the public.

The Shchuch'ye facility was constructed under the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which is designed to assist the countries of the former Soviet Union to destroy nuclear, chemical, and other weapons of mass destruction. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency implements the Cooperative Threat Reduction program for the Department of Defense. This project supports the Russian Federation’s Chemical Weapons Convention requirement to eliminate its 32,500-metric-ton stockpile of chemical nerve agent.

Parsons is the prime contractor or a significant team member in three of the eight systems contracts in the continental United States, and we designed four of the other five continental U.S. facilities. Parsons also designed the first U.S. chemical demilitarization facility that was successfully operated and closed on Johnston Atoll. We have the knowledge and expertise to safely destroy chemical and conventional weapons while protecting the workforce, the public, and the environment.