Demilitarization of Ammunition

Date: 07.04.2016 Category: Military - Defense

In many countries, excess stockpiles of obsolete or unserviceable ammunitions have reached astonishing numbers that will require the demilitarization of these materials. As of September 1st, 2010 as Operation New Dawn reduced the number of American troops needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, this concern was an ever relevant topic of debate in Washington. The army began the process of removing thousands of tons of ammunitions, according to current figures from Army personnel the cost of such removal was a staggering $10 million dollars, in the fiscal year of 2010 over 970 tons of ammunitions were disposed whereas useable material were sent to Kuwait. According to the Department of Defense, such obsolete and unserviceable ammunitions include large rocket motors, tactical missiles and typical munitions. Especially once a country leaves, or is planning on leaving, a warzone these stockpiles must be disposed of with care; the process, environmental effects and regulations must be considered.


Once material is designated for demilitarization, it is required that all residues from the destruction process is either recycled or destroyed. Many contractors and companies, depending on the severity or longevity of a particular ammunition have a plethora of options to rid themselves of such materials. Many resort to burning or open detonation of the ammunitions. Burning and open detonation occurs in special facilities hundreds of miles underground or in secluded factories elsewhere. Contractors have even been able to make to modify technologies to be transportable from one stockpile to another until it decomposes. Storage until demilitarization is another popular method, where companies store the material until it naturally disintegrates, this is a very long endeavor. But whichever method these contractors and companies decide, it is ultimately up to the client on how to proceed. Cost, environmental impact, timeframe, availability and logistics all play a part in the process.

Environmental effects

When companies and contractors are burning, detonating and burying such materials it can inevitably have an adverse effect on the environment. There are strict laws that regulate how to dispose of hazardous and harmful materials making the disposal of large quantities of ammunitions a difficult task. Air pollution, pink water and contamination of secondary materials are all adverse effects of the process listed above. There are very strict environmental regulations, every country has their own particular rules, but they are required to adhere to the management and safety of air, water, and land emissions. Since burning and open detonation is a popular, yet controversial method of disposing ammunitions, industrial dismantling processes are required.  Since climate change is such a  hot button topic in America today, some may consider or question whether these methods are necessary or even fully safe.



Although the environmental aspect is quite a challenge there are some steps being taken to ensure all regulations are being met. But the bigger issue for any company or country looking to demilitarize their weapons its whether methods are cost effective. As is the case with the United States and their ever growing stockpile of ammunitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the decision of not only what to do with such ammuntions still linger, but at what cost are we willing to dispose of them. For instance, if we disassemble the materials and reuse them in another form may not always offset the costs of the process itself. Some ammunitions are either too large or too small to be properly recycled, or recycling of commercial glass, which is cheaper to produce new, is something to be considered. The process to get rid of such materials is costly, but the big question facing politicians and legislatures is, whether recycling these materials or reusing them in another form will offset the cost of the process itself. Despite these concerns, government officials from around the world are taking the necessary precautions to ensure these materials are disposed safely, whether they are recycled and reused for later, potentially commercial usage, or whether the residue is burned or detonated underground, all necessary protocols are being met.