It is the substance responsible for the explosion that occurred in the port of Beirut on August 4 and that of the AZF plant on September 21, 2001. Ammonium nitrate is a commonly used chemical, particularly in ‘Agriculture. France 3 went, Wednesday, September 16, to meet grain farmers whose fertilizer is composed of this highly explosive chemical. The storage of these small white balls requires special attention.
“We store it in a building where there is no fodder, the product is known to be safe, for me the risk is zero”, however, testifies a cereal farmer at the microphone of France 3, showing the location of the bags of fertilizer stored under a wooden frame. “Wood chips can fall and in case of fire of a neighboring building (…), which would cause the fire of the wood frame, the wood frame could cause the explosion of the nitrate”, underlines Paul Poulain, fire risk specialist, at the sight of the images shot by France 3. The expert wishes to specify that “it is not the fault of the farmers” if “no training on this subject is given to them”, he laments.
In France, stocks of less than 250 tonnes are neither subject to prior declaration nor to specific regulations. By way of comparison, the explosion in Beirut was caused by the conflagration of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. In the case of the AZF factory in Toulouse in 2001, on the other hand, 300 to 400 tonnes of this product were enough to cause an explosion which killed 31 people and left 2,500 injured.