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Explosive Residue from Incomplete Munition Detonations on Military Training Grounds

This Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) project investigates what happens to explosive residue on military training grounds.

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Incomplete detonations of explosives occur frequently on military training grounds, and may lead to groundwater contamination or result in a dangerous concentrations of explosives in soil. As little is known about the extent or nature of the problem, it has been difficult to develop cleanup procedures to mitigate the possible risks. This project aims to describe the residual matter created by incomplete detonations and model the fate of this matter in the environment.

As a first step towards understanding the problem, we quantify the residual matter created by incomplete detonations of Composition B based munitions (TNT and RDX). Data was collected from high and low order detonations of a variety of munitions including 155-mm howitzer rounds and 81-mm mortars. Using a number of tools, the quantity, shape, size, chemical makeup, and spatial distribution of residual particles were measured. In addition to informing cleanup efforts, this data provides quantitative information that can be used to determine what happens to particles in the environment.

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The second phase of the project investigates the dissolution of particles in the environment. Variations in particle composition, heating, and surface area, influence particle dissolution and are often not accounted for in models. To complement the existing data, the gradual dissolution of a representative particle under rain-like conditions was closely monitored. The resulting information on dissolution rates, preferential compound dissolution, and change in particle surface area, can be used to refine models and predict effects on groundwater.

Related Publications

Role: Collect data on particle size distribution, refine data collection procedures, and analyze data using programs such as NIH Image and JMP. Participate in field sampling and instrument design for dissolution experiments. Investigate other techniques for measuring particle surface area and assist in preparing publications.