A common disposal method for munitions in the demilitarization stockpile is open burning/open detonation (OB/OD). However, OB/OD can generate air emissions whic h must meet permit requirements of Subpart X of Part 264 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Computer-simulated emissions data was not accepted by regulators, requiring that actual OB/OD test emissions data be gathered and submitted for Subpart X permits.

This project was part of a program to develop a system that is fully capable of characterizing emissions produced by the OB/OD of all conventional munitions and energetics within the demilitarization system. This objective was to make the OB/OD disposal process more efficient, reduce the impact of OB/OD operations on the environment, and facilitate the OB/OD permitting process.

Technical Approach

The following tasks were completed under this project: (1) testing procedures, acceptable to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for characterizing emissions, were developed and validated; (2) OB/OD emissions of items in the demilitarization inventory were characterized, the data were used to evaluate available models, and an OB/OD source characterization model and source terms for OB/OD processes were produced; (3) an OB/OD emissions database that groups individual items based on their emissions to avoid testing every individual item was developed; (4) the OB/OD process was optimized to provide a scientifically sound understanding of the process of the destruction of munitions and propellant, explosive, and pyrotechnic (PEP) materials; and (5) items for the characterization of OB/OD emissions were selected based on their relative quantity within the inventory and on gaps in the existing OB/OD emissions database.


A comprehensive examination of the emissions database was conducted in order to identify which target analytes provide the highest probability of determining if emissions can be used to classify munitions and, therefore, which should be priority analytes in future tests. Statistical analyses on the results of munitions and PEP tests were performed in order to classify emissions into families. The OB/OD process was optimized and an increased explosive capacity facility (ODOBi) was constructed to provide data to determine a scaling relationship between the amount of an item tes ted and the much larger amount used in actual open air OB/OD treatment. Emissions factors from the emissions database have been forwarded for incorporation into the Munitions Items Disposal Action System database. This project was completed in FY 1997.


The optimization of the OB/OD treatment process provides a scientifically sound method for minimizing toxic emissions and sound and pressure waves generated by open-air OB/OD thermal treatment. By providing the technologies to characterize OB/OD emissions accurately and data that can justify a continuation of OB/OD operations where appropriate, this project is reducing munitions inventories while producing significant cost savings in munitions and PEP disposal. As items suitable for OB/OD disposal are identified, items unacceptable for OB/OD treatment likewise will be identified, allowing for the focusing of research and development funds for alternate disposal technologies where the need is greatest.