Inside a vast and plain, but dated, rectangular building at the Big Pasco Industrial Center, Parsons Technology Development and Fabrication Complex engineers and workers have designed and created the intricate machinery that is being used to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile at Kentucky’s Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant.
In a way, it’s rather ironic.
Inside former Army Depot buildings created to support the Army’s war efforts during WWII, the employees are focused on creating the finding the safest, most efficient way to dispose of the munitions stored at Blue Grass — 523 tons of nerves agents, including sarin, VX and mustard gas.
Parson TDFC also fabricated equipment for chemical agent disposal at the Aberdeen Chemical Demilitarization Facility in Maryland and to retrieve high-level nuclear waste at the DOE’s Hanford site.
Parsons, headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., is an engineering and construction company founded in 1944. The company offers design/design-build, program/construction management/professional services and innovative alternative delivery solutions to government agencies, and private and industrials customers across the world.
It has 11,500 employees working on 4,500 projects across the U.S. and in 24 countries.
But the company’s only fabrication facility is located here in the Tri-Cities — at the Big Pasco Industrial Complex.
In addition to the two-story, 20,000-sq.-ft. office building constructed two years ago at site to house management and the engineering, design and procurement staff, the company has a five-acre lay down yard and test area, 43,000 sq. ft. of fenced lay down yard, and the 215,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and testing shop.
“This is the only fabrication shop that Parsons has,” said Michael Butterworth, Parsons’ business manager at the Pasco facility. “We are the technology arm for Parson.”
It’s here that the Parsons’ team designed, developed, tested, fabricated, tested, patented, and analyzed the equipment being used to safely remove chemical agent from the projectiles and rockets.
Parsons created a precision mechanical system that uses lasers to determine exactly where to safely the separate the rocket’s propellant from the warhead, so the chemical agents can be drained.
The metal parts are thermally decontaminated by a high-pressure water washout before being heated to 1,000 degree Fahrenheit. Then the metal parts can be safely recycled, Butterworth said.
The process is done using the cavity access machines, or CAMs, designed and built at Parsons’ Pasco facility, which employs about 130 workers.
The CAM uses Supercritical Water Oxidation units to destroy the chemical agents, using pressure, high temperature and hydrogen peroxide to cause the agent to dissipate into carbon dioxide, water and salt.
In addition to the chemical demilitarization work being done at Parsons TDFC, the Pasco facility also has done quite a bit of work related to Hanford, including the design and fabrication of the nuclear sludge removal and transfer system and work on the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment.
Butterworth said the Pasco facility is unique in that it offers engineering, design and fabrication all in-house.
The company also sub-contacts with American Electric, which has workers on site to provide electrical services.
“I really don’t think the Tri-Cities recognizes the amount of manufacturing that is happening here,” said Butterworth.