The demilitarization of the U.S. armed forces has lead to a significant increase in the stockpile of warfare materials. The current inventory is estimated to be 400,000 tons and growing at a rate of 40,000 tons per year. The stockpile is distributed throughout the country at more than 200 Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DOE) installations. Many of the materials in the stockpile are old, unstable, and unsafe. A common disposal method is open burning and open detonation (OB/OD), a relatively simple and cost-effective method for stockpile reduction. However, OB/OD can generate air pollutants, and any facility that intends to use OB/OD disposal methods must meet permit requirements under subpart X of Part 264 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The objective of this project was to develop a mobile meteorologic al observation platform and air pollution dispersion model that can be used to predict the impact of OB/OD of demilitarized munitions on human health and surrounding ecosystems. The observation and modeling techniques developed in this project will help to reduce the demilitarized stock pile significantly in a timely, cost-efficient, and environmentally-safe manner.

Technical Approach

This project was a cooperative effort involving the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Environmental Technology Laboratory and Atmospheric Sciences Modeling Division, and the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds, UT. The first task was to construct the mobile meteorological observation platform, which consisted of commercially available sensors including: a wind-profiling radar to obtain horizontal and vertical wind profiles from heights of 125 m above ground up to 3,000 m; a radio acoustic sounding system for the acquisition of virtual air temperature profiles from 125 m up to 1500 m; an acoustic sodar system to obtain high resolution (25 m) horizontal and vertical wind profiles in the first 500 m of the boundary layer; a ceilometer (lidar) system to estimate mixed layer height; and at least one 10 m tower system to obtain surface layer measurements of wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, barometric pressure, and turbulence variables such as fluxes of sensible heat and momentum. This integrated system provided real-time meteorological measurements to characterize the dispersion of OB/OD emissions. The second task was to develop an air pollution transport and dispersion model specifically designed for OB/OD activities. The model has the capability of being used at sites with either simple or complex terrain. The model used the real-time data from the mobile meteorological observation platform and the pollution emission factors data for OB/OD activities.


Components for the mobile meteorological observation platform were integrated and testing was begun. Operational model algorithms for instantaneous and quasi-continuous plumes and for mixed layer depth detection were developed. Data from the mobile meteorological observation platform were validated against data from a network of surface and ground-based remote sensors in the Denver Brown Cloud Study, located in the front range of the Rocky Mountains around Denver, CO. This project was completed in FY 1997.


This project will provide the DoD and DOE tools to acquire the information needed to obtain a RCRA Subpart X permit for OB/OD activities. Use of the mobile meteorological observation platform and OB/OD transport and dispersion model helps to reduce the demilitarized stockpile in a timely, c ost-efficient, and environmentally-safe manner. OB/OD activities are generally less expensive than other reclamation and/or disposal methods, and therefore, a substantial cost savings also should be realized.