Tim Blades, director of operations for the Chemical Biological Application
and Risk Reduction Business Unit, talks at a June 27 demonstration
of the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System at the Aberdeen
Proving Ground. (Army)
Should the Pentagon need to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons, it can do so with new mobile systems that can neutralize and destroy the materials, according to defense officials.
The Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS) is designed to destroy chemical warfare agents in bulk and can be up and running within 10 days of arriving on site.
“We are acquiring some ability to deal with chemical materials should we be in a position where we have to do that,” Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Wednesday during a presentation at the IDEEA-sponsored COMDEF conference in Washington....
...A crew of 15 people is needed to operate the system at any given time, according to the Army. The system can neutralize between five and 25 metric tons of chemicals per day, depending on the material.To this novice process chemist, the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System appears to be a flow unit (the pipes on the right?) with a 2000 gallon reactor (with agitator gearbox?) attached to it. I don't quite know what the reactor w/agitator is for: to hold the hydrolysate? to be the unit where the hydrolysis happens? It would also be terribly interesting to know how they get the nerve agent into the system. Crack open the nerve agent rounds, pour into tote, suck into reactor? Doubtful.
[Worth remembering that nerve agent destruction is fairly simple -- mix your sarin or VX with caustic soda (50% aqueous sodium hydroxide) and heat until you can't detect the nerve agent anymore...]
I'm interested to learn that they need 15 folks to operate the system -- that suggests to me that it's a reasonably complex process (although who knows if that's 3 teams of 5, working 3 shifts a day) or 1 operator and 14 people to cringe and make sure (s)he's doing it right.
Finally, I am very curious to know exactly how mobile such a unit might be. I know that reactors go across the country on flatbed trucks all the time -- how exactly would they transport such a unit overseas? By boat? Does a 2000 gallon reactor fit in a shipping container? Could a C-130 fit a 2000 gallon reactor? Dunno.
I like adventure myself, but I would not volunteer to work with the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System in Syria, or anywhere else where this unit might be required. Unless, of course, the FDHS came with a battalion of crack infantry troops to surround it....
UPDATE: For those who wish a slightly more skeptical view of the practicality of this, click here.