Fertilizer in Texas Blast Regulated in Nevada

Ammonium nitrate has the potential to green the world's fields, increasing crop production her and abroad.

But as we've seen once again in Texas it has the destructive potential to lay waste to the landscape around it.

It's been the cause of some of the most devastating explosions in America's history. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a mixture of the solid form of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

That potential has led some European countries to ban it in pure form.

There's no such ban here in the U-S, but Nevada regulates it more than just about any other state.

In the wake of the Oklahoma City incident, the legislature passed some new laws.

"You cannot distribute it or have it come into the state without being registered." says Nevada Department of Agriculture spokesman Ed Foster. "and for them to sell it they have to have to have a record of who bought it, their location and it was used for."

South Carolina is the only other state to require registration of distributors and ID's of buyers.

There are only three licensed distributors of the fertilizer in Nevada They bring in about 530 tons of anhydrous ammonium nitrate--that's the liquid form--come to Nevada each year.

That's a relatively small amount, but it brings with it some it's own unique hazards.

While the solid form must be mixed with a flammable fuel and exposed to high heat to produce an explosion. Anyhydrous ammonium nitrate becomes explosive when you put water on it.

One potential scenario suggests that's just what might have happened in Texas.

It's a challenge well known to Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez comes from Texas..

"Anytime you have an incident at a refining plant whether its fertilizer, oil, gasoline or jet fuel, you have a very high risk of catastrophic events," he says. "So they try to keep those down to a minimum."

But Hernandez says crews here are well versed in the challenges such fires present and if, something like this happened here, they'd be prepared.

"Absolutely our fire fighters now there are some incidents we respond to that you can't put water on, for instance magnesium, anyhydrous ammonia. Things like that."


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