Aging Rocket Fuel Prompts Tests at Army Depot

Dec 11, 2012

Given its age, it’s time to test the stability of rocket fuel stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot.  This winter, officials hope to remove propellants from 44 rockets, and truck most of it to New Jersey for safety tests.  Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Grice, who commands the operation, says they’ll implement numerous safeguards. Grice says the biggest risk is the accidental ignition of a rocket motor.

Storage igloos at Bluegrass Army Depot. This winter, crews of five workers will disassemble 44 chemical weapons rockets inside an empty igloo.

“We’ve mitigated that hazard by ensuring the rocket is always facing into the igloo. We’re only handling one rocket at a time.  And, if at any point, we get an indication that we have concern with that rocket, we’ll repack that rocket and put it back into storage,” said Grice.

Over 69,000 rockets, dating back to the 1960s are stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot. The chemical warheads will be returned to storage. They’ll one day be neutralized at a facility now under construction at the depot.  But, so far, Jeff Brubaker, who’s a project manager at the depot, says no decision has been made on the disposal of rocket fuel.

“We have to establish a location and a process to destroy that propellant.  We‘re looking at whether it makes more sense to destroy the propellant somewhere within the boundary of Bluegrass Army Depot or whether it makes more sense to ship propellant to an offsite commercial facility for destruction of the propellant,” said Brubaker.

Before disassembly, shipping and testing can begin, the State of Kentucky must okay the process.