April 1 (UPI) -- Bechtel National received a $1.2 billion contract extension this week to destroy surplus chemical weapons stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado.
The deal funds the construction of three new buildings -- called static detonation chambers -- to destroy munitions that could not be destroyed by automated equipment in Pueblo, according to Bechtel.
The Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant in Pueblo began pilot operations in 2016 and has destroyed more than 1,300 tons of mustard weapons. According to Bechtel, that's more than half of the stockpile in Colorado.
By the time the project is complete, Bechtel estimates staff will have destroyed more than 2,600 tons of mustard gas in three formats -- 155mm projectiles, 105 mm projectiles and 4.2-inch mortar rounds -- before ultimately closing the plant.
According to materials published by the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, staff at the plant use three processes to destroy chemical weapons: neutralization followed by biotreatment; explosive destruction; and static detonation.
"The mission of this plant, our people, and our customer has international significance: to help rid the U.S. of chemical weapons," Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel's Nuclear, Security and Environmental global business unit, said in a press release. "The team overcame the challenge posed by some munitions and is now simultaneously operating the main plant and building the new destruction facilities."
Michael S. Abaie, program executive officer for the Army's Program Executive Office for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, said the project puts his office in a "good position" to finish destroying the weapons stockpile by December 2023.