Panel ID's Alternatives to Military Munitions Open Burning

Dec 6, 2018

A new report outlines several viable alternatives to the practice of open burning of miltary waste at sites like the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in southwestern Virginia. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine made results of its months long study available to the public.  

An open burn at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant
Credit BAE Systems & Radford Army Ammunition Plant

Committee chairman Todd Kimmel is with Argonne National Laboratory. He says early in its study, the group realized disposing of military waste by open burning and open detonation, known as O-B-O-D is not only a scientific, technical issue, it’s also a social issue.

“So we brought in expertise of the 'public involvement folks' on this. We know there’s been concern about O-B-O-D for a long time and we believe there will be a lot of support also for the alternatives.”

The panel explored what it calls several viable options for closed burning and detonation already in use at sites around country, all of which include waste monitoring capability. But it also made a point of saying  that each has its limitations, chief among them, cost.

“There are alternatives to open burning and open detonation and there are challenges in implementing these alternatives. Most important, in order for any kind of change to happen here, it’s going to require congress to be behind it."

The report comes at the request of Congress, which last summer, asked the Academies to study the increasingly controversial issue.

Vice chair of the committee Douglass Medville is an independent consultant from Colorado. He says that while there are already many contained detonation chambers in use by the military, careful decisions will need to be made because there are pro’s and con’s to all of them.  

“And in the end, you’re going to have to look at each one on a case by case, site by site basis. Look at the materials at Radford say, that are being produced, contaminated soils and things like that and then try to pick the technologies that are most suitable for dealig with these problems."

As part of its inquiry, the panel spoke with residents of the New River Valley, Kimmel said. “And let me add also that one of our recommendations in the report entails involving the public at each location, at least informing them of the decision process and the alternatives being considered."

The panel shared its report with the army earlier this week. It will be responsible for establishing a time line for planning and implementation.

The report is called “Alternatives for the Demilitarization of Conventional Munitions.” Click Here to see the report.