US issues new security rules to control sales of ammonium nitrate

02 August 2011 20:32  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US federal security officials on Tuesday proposed new rules to control the sale and use of ammonium nitrate (AN) across the country, covering transactions involving as little as 25lb (11kg) of the explosive chemical.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its proposed “Ammonium Nitrate Security Program” for 60 days of public comment, saying the regulations are critical “to ensure the security of potentially dangerous amounts of ammonium nitrate while still facilitating legitimate everyday use”.

Ammonium nitrate is widely used, chiefly in fertilizers but also in first-aid products and some retail mixtures for home and garden use.

But AN also is a powerful explosive and was the principal component in the April 1995 bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people. That bomb used one tonne of AN mixed with fuel oil.

Under the proposed AN security rules, anyone who sells, transfers or uses ammonium nitrate in volumes of 25lb or more would be required to register with the department and keep accurate records of every transaction, distribution or use.

They would have to maintain those records for two years, and the recordkeeping would be subject to department inspection and audits.

In addition, the loss or theft of any AN volume in excess of 25lb would have to be reported to the department within 24 hours.

US chemical industry operators who manufacture, distribute, store or use AN in commercial volumes already are regulated under the department’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

However, the department said, those standards are aimed at the security of high-risk chemical facilities where large volumes - ranging from 400-5,000lb depending on the type of AN - are produced, stored or distributed.

“The CFATS rule does not, however, impose any limitations on the sale or transfer of ammonium nitrate,” the department noted.

In contrast, while the proposed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program “does not address the physical security of ammonium nitrate facilities, it does impose certain conditions on the sale or transfer of ammonium nitrate”.

Essentially, the proposed rules provide that quantities of AN weighing more than 25lb “may only be transferred between registered ammonium nitrate sellers and registered ammonium nitrate purchasers or purchasers agents”.

According to the US Commerce Department, the US consumed about 7m tonnes of AN in 2010. Other than multi-tonne commercial bulk shipments, AN typically is sold in pre-packaged bags of at least 50lb.

The department’s proposed AN security rules, required by legislation passed in late 2007, are estimated to cost US industry and agriculture about $700m (€490m) over ten years.

For complete details on the proposed 200-page regulation, see the department’s web site.

($1 = €0.70)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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