Figure 4-23: Typical Open Burning Pan and Cage
Open burn (OB) and open detonation (OD) operations are conducted to
destroy excess, obsolete, or unserviceable (EOU) munitions and energetic materials. In OB
operations, energetics or munitions are destroyed by self-sustained combustion, which is
ignited by an external source, such as flame, heat, or a detonation wave. In this case, an
auxilliary fuel may be added to initiate and sustain the combustion of materials. In OD
operations, detonatable explosives and munitions are destroyed by a detonation, which is
generally initiated by the detonation of an energetic charge.
In the past, OB/OD
generally occured in the surface of the land or in pits. Recently, burn trays and blast
boxes are being used in an attempt to control and contain the destruction of energetics
and resulting contaminants/emissions. In detonation processes the blast box may be below
grade and covered with soil to further minimize the release of emissions.
OB/OD operations can destroy many types of explosives, pyrotechnics, and propellants.
OB areas must be able to withstand accidental detonation of any or all energetics being
destroyed, unless the operating OB technicians recognize that the characteristics of the
materials involved are such that orderly burning without detonation can be ensured.
Personnel with this type of knowledge must be consulted before any attempt is made at OB
disposal, especially if primary explosives are present in any quantity.
OB and OD can be initiated either by electric, burning, or energetic charge ignition
systems. In general, electric systems are preferable because they provide better control
over the timing of the initiation. In an electric system, electric current heats a bridge
wire, which ignites a primary explosive or pyrotechnic, which, in turn, ignites or
detonates the material slated to be burned or detonated. If necessary, safety fuses, which
consists of propellants wrapped in plastic weather stripping, are used to initiate the
burn or detonation. In some cases, scrap energetics or dried activated carbon from
pink/red water treatment may be used as the initiation charge.
OB/OD can be used to destroy excess, obsolete, or unserviceable (EOU)
munitions, components, energetic materials, as well as, media contaminated with
The following factors may limit the applicability and effectiveness of the
- Minimum distance requirements for safety purposes mean substantial space is required for
- OB/OD operations emissions are difficult to sufficiently capture for treatment and may
not be permitted in areas with emissions limitations, although subsurface processes
minimize emission release.
- In open OB/OD operations, prevailing winds must carry sparks, flame, smoke, and toxic
fumes away from neighboring facilities. OB/OD operations are never conducted during sand,
snow, or electrical storms strong enough to produce static electricity, which might cause
- OB/OD requires a RCRA Subpart X permit.
- In addition, with growing OB/OD restriction, DOD's ability to treat energetic wastes is
diminishing and energetics disposal, through OB/OD, may be eliminated.
A detailed discussion of these data elements is provided in Subsection 2.2.1 (Data Requirements for Soil, Sediment,
and Sludge). Specific data required to evaluate the potential use of OB/OD operations
- Location plan for proposed OB/OD operations showing adjacent land uses and safety buffer
- Emissions requirements for the geographic area of the OB/OD operation.
Several federal agencies are pursuing new technologies in this area
- DOE's molten salt technology,
- U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory's (CERL) pyrolysis of energetic
- U.S. Army Research Laboratory's supercritical fluid technology for nitramine recovery,
- U.S. Army Research and Development Engineering Center's (ARDEC) single- and multi-base
propellant recovery technologies,
- Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Indian Head Division's supercritical fluid
propellant extraction process,
- Armstrong Laboratory's hydrothermal oxidation for propellant destruction, and
- Holston Army Amunition Plant's (AAP) recovery of waste explosives.
Technologies: Field Scale Demonstration Project in North America,
Cleanup: Overview of Operating Experience at 28 Sites, September 1999, EPA
Applicability of Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment Technologies to
RCRA Waste Streams and Contaminated Media, August 2000, EPA 542-R-00-004
Experiences at RCRA Corrective Actions, December 2000, EPA 542-F-00-020
of Remediation Case Studies, Volume 4, June, 2000, EPA
Guide to Documenting and Managing Cost and Performance Information for
Remediation Projects - Revised Version, October, 1998, EPA 542-B-98-007
Teer, R.G., R.E. Brown, and H.E. Sarvis, June 1993. Status of
RCRA Permitting of Open Burning and Open Detonation of Explosive Wastes,
Presented at Air and Waste Management Association Conference, 86th Annual Meeting and
Exposition, Denver, CO.
USAF, 1990. Explosives Safety Standards,
Air Force Regulation 127-100.
USAMC (U.S. Army Materiel Command), 1985. Explosives Safety Manual,
Points of Contact:
General FRTR Agency Contacts
Technology Specific Web Sites:
Non Government Web Sites
A list of vendors offering
In Situ Physical/Chemical Treatment is available from EPA
REACH IT which combines information from three established EPA databases,
the Vendor Information System for Innovative Treatment Technologies (VISITT),
the Vendor Field Analytical and Characterization Technologies System (Vendor
FACTS), and the Innovative Treatment Technologies (ITT), to give users access to
comprehensive information about treatment and characterization technologies and
Health and Safety: