07:58 am, Friday 29 October, 2010
A blast zone kilometres-wide would be produced by an explosion in Port Adelaide, in which fertiliser weighing up to 160 tonnes are stored, reports reveal.
SafeWork SA released a report stating that stockpiles of ammonium nitrate in a plant might “mass explode” and devastate nearby areas, including a planned residential zone.
It says even a fire at the plant would “produce a large volume of toxic gas” and force a mass evacuation.
According to the State Government, a plan is being worked out to relocate the plant by 2012.
It was revealed that the Environment Protection Authority and SA Health had also raised concerns over environmental, health and explosion risks.
The report by Safe Work SA said the expansion of Dock One – a residential area – would place residents as close as 380m to the stockpiles of the dangerous goods.
“The material has the potential to mass explode in certain circumstances (accidental contamination with other chemicals, in a fire situation, or through malicious action where other energetic materials are used to initiate such an explosion),” the report states.
“Although the company has developed a safety and security management plan for factory activities, such an explosion still has the possibility of occurring.”
Professor Stephen Lincoln of University of Adelaide’s chemistry department confirmed a gigantic blast would result if the stockpiles are ignited.
“If all of that exploded, the consequences would be devastating. You would have huge damage for a radius of at least a couple of kilometres around,” he said.
However, he explained that detonation of ammonium nitrate does not take place easily, and “there would have to be either gross negligence or an act of terrorism.”
Minister Paul Holloway of Urban Development and Planning said the company running the plant had been operating without incident for many years.