May 31, 2007

Radford Removes Toxic Red Water From TNT Production

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., May 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new production process for the Army's most widely used explosive, TNT, is now underway at Radford Army Ammunition Plant, Va. The process replaced technology that created more than 60,000 pounds per day of "red water," named for the color of TNT exposed to air. Radford completely eliminated the environmental toxin -- and its estimated $1 million annual disposal bill -- from the production of the explosive.

During the Vietnam War era, Radford was an expert in TNT production. The Department of Defense shut down the operation in 1986 when a surplus of the explosive was reached. With the advent of the Global War on Terrorism, the requirement for TNT production returned. However, simply starting the process back up again was impossible with current environmental laws.

At Radford, a team was formed to take the outdated, costly and environmentally challenged TNT production process and completely transform it using "green" design. The team, including eight environmental and process design engineers, managers and technicians, worked to make significant reductions in hazardous waste streams and air emissions by substituting the fundamental feedstock, switching to a nitric acid crystallizing process and installing new fume abatement and acid recycling facilities.

Because DoD planned to select the new U.S. producer of TNT competitively, the Radford design team members knew they would need an edge.

"The red water waste stream had always been a big environmental and cost issue since the early days of U.S. TNT production," said Brad Jennings, the team's environmental coordinator. "The team at Radford found their competitive edge by going back to the drawing board and making some daring and innovative fundamental changes to Radford's TNT process. The result is a TNT process design without a red water waste stream."

New by-products took the place of red water, but these wastes are useful in other industries and can be sold to generate income. For example, the new production process generates about 650,000 pounds of isotrioil per year. Since this is an ingredient in commercial dynamite, sale of isotrioil could produce an estimated $650,000 annually.

The old process also emitted hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide into the air every year. The new system produces less than 10 tons of these emissions yearly. These emissions are now captured in an effective weak nitric acid crystallization process. The new process sends the emissions through a fume abatement tower and carbon monoxide oxidizer. In addition, a maintenance tank now collects the nitrator vessel dumps, eliminating a process that previously generated significant quantities of nitrous oxide.

Radford's new TNT manufacturing process shows how legacy weapons and munitions systems can be redesigned in an environmentally responsible manner while creating a safer work environment. TNT is now produced much more economically with the potential for recurring savings of $3 million annually, primarily as a result of eliminating waste, pollution and environmental risk. These gains have earned the Radford Army Ammunition plant pollution prevention team recognition at the highest levels of the Army. The team was awarded the FY 2006 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Pollution Prevention, Team.

This information is provided by USAEC. USAEC is the Army's point organization for supporting the implementation of environmental programs that facilitate sustainable Army training and operations while protecting the environment. We provide environmental program management and technical support products and services in support of Army training operations, acquisition and sound stewardship.

"Sustaining the Environment for a Secure Future"

For more information on the U.S. Army Environmental Center, visit

U.S. Army Environmental Center

CONTACT: Robert E. DiMichele, Public Affairs Officer of U.S. ArmyEnvironmental Center, +1-410-436-2556, [email protected]

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