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This Vacuum Detonator Blows Deadly Chemical Weapons to Smithereens

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Disposing of the world's chemical weapon stockpiles is far easier said than done. It's not like the good old days prior to WWII when we could just dump extraneous supplies of mustard gas and other chemical weapons into the open ocean or under Delaware roadways or just big pits at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama—no, no, now we have to dispose of it in a responsible manner. That's why Army crews now rely on an ingenious explosive vacuum chamber to burn these deadly weapons to harmless ash.

Dubbed the DAVINCH (Detonation of Ammunition in a Vacuum-Integrated Chamber) and developed by Kobe Steel, Ltd. of Kobe, Japan, this system is an example of Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT) that employs explosive charges or heat to burn out chemical weapons rather than require EOD specialists to delicately (and unbearably slowly) disassemble and disarm chemical munitions.


This double-walled steel vacuum detonation chamber, and supplemental off-gas system, is built to detonate some of humanity's most deadly biological weapons harmlessly. The device itself is comprised of a pair of nestled chambers—together weighing over 160,000 pounds—capped with a 30,000 pound air-tight blast door.

As a Board on Army Science and Technology report explains:

The [DAVINCH] process uses a detonation chamber in which chemical munitions are destroyed when donor charges surrounding the munitions are detonated. Offgases are produced that require secondary treatment…The offgases resulting from agent destruction in the DAVINCH vessel are filtered to remove particulates and, with oxygen from an external supply, are pumped into the cold plasma oxidizer, which oxidizes CO to CO2. Condensate water is then recovered from the exhaust gas; the gas is passed through activated carbon and exhausted to the atmosphere.


The DAVINCH system is already hard at work at the Deseret Chemical Depot, a US Army chemical weapons incinerator in Tooele County, UT. Over the past 15 years, the facility has destroyed more than 1.1 million explosive weapons containing toxic chemical agents primarily by cutting the bombs open, draining the agents, and burning the contents. But for more than 300 corroded and rotting munitions containing mustard gas, that method was simply too risky to attempt. Instead, the Army installed the DAVINCH in 2011 to handle the task , which it did commendably before the Depot closed in June of this year.

Additionally, four such DAVINCH systems have already been installed at sites in Japan, Belgium, as well as a pair in China. So why are UN teams are attacking President Assad's chemical weapon stockpiles with "cutting torches and angle grinders," as noted in a news release from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Sunday? That's just asking for trouble. [KSL - Bonnint - Begel House - Defense Industry Daily - US Army - Baltimore Sun - CNN]