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Lab technician working with vials.

Battelle Develops Revolutionary Method for Lewisite Chemical Demilitarization for the U.S. Army, Ensuring Timely Closure of Tooele

Challenge

The United States is committed to the timely disposal of its stored chemical warfare agents (CWA) and fulfilling its promise to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in accordance with the provisions and requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Covered under the treaty is the destruction of lewisite at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility and subsequent closure of the plant by 2014. However, at the onset of the project, no worldwide accepted method existed that could prove the presence or absence of lewisite, making it impossible to shutter the facility, potentially leaving the United States open to international scrutiny.

Solution

Although charged with destroying lewisite at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, the U.S. Army's Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) – responsible for storing, treating, and disposing of chemical weapons safely and effectively – did not have the laboratory capability needed to determine if lewisite was present or absent, as an analytical method for direct measurement of that CWA compound did not previously exist. The Army contracted Battelle to develop a definitive analytical method for determining the existence of intact lewisite bringing closure to a critical step in the facility’s demilitarization process. Battelle’s laboratory and team scientists divided the method development task into two distinct parts: Part 1 was development of a set of procedures and extraction steps to support collection and preparation of field samples that might contain lewisite, and Part 2 was focused on instrumental platform conditions and analysis of intact lewisite. Leveraging previous experience and daily test result observations, our scientists derived a new analytical approach which could accurately and reproducibly measure lewisite at parts per million levels, which had never been done before.

Outcome

Battelle played a critical role in helping our nation fulfill our commitment to the timely disposal of stored CWAs by developing the new lewisite detection method, thereby helping keep the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility closure on schedule. Any delays in the destruction of lewisite could have cost the U.S. Army considerable amounts of money, not to mention additional scrutiny from the international community.