Your government at work, but not very hard

In January there was quite a stir about burning artillery propellant at Camp Minden, LA.  Not much happening since.Junkscience had several articles on the proposed open burn of old, unstable, improperly stored artillery propellant.  What’s happening now?  This EPA link says it all.  Weeds in front of a bunker.  I’m sure there is a lot going on behind the quiet facade.  It usually takes a decade or two to properly milk a superfund site.


7 responses to “Your government at work, but not very hard

  1. Old timers in the explosives business have been long familiar with the problems of ageing explosives. Instability, increased sensitivity, and degradation products that completely redefine the explosive material are just some of the issues. The problem is as old as nitroglycerine oozing from ‘sweaty’ dynamite.
    They also know the best way to amplify the effects of an explosion is to confine the explosive at the moment of detonation. Packing a concrete bunker with high explosives (HE) is very similar to packing gunpowder inside a steel barrel – the confinement delays the release of pressure until it has built up to extreme levels, turning the bunker into a bomb.
    Open burning of small amounts is the best solution.

    • The propellant was stored in sealed tubes which protected it from environmental conditions and from being accidentally ignited. I haven’t seen a photo of the cannisters, so all of this must have been removed from them.

    • Detonation involves a supersonic shockwave which doesn’t require the be confined in order to blast away everything in the vicinity…..A shell from the Bismarck hit the magazines of the Hood which sank in a few seconds…The 112 tons of cordite involved probably detonated from the shell’s shock wave. although the bottom of the ship would have been blown away by the fast-burning propellant anyway. It seems the big problem with tri-nitro compounds is that their detonation is very difficult in normal situations and dangerously easy in abnormal situations……..

      • This propellant doesn’t detonate, it is a relatively slow burner since it is mostly structured (for controlled burn rate) nitrocellulose. It doesn’t seem slow when you fire the howitzer. And it would likely give a heck of a good imitation of detonation when powder bags stored in an enclosed bunker start burning.

  2. Hank de Carbonel

    I am surprised they have not discovered any cajun delta smelt, black flies, red legged kangaroo rats, or highly valued varmints. What about a virus that thrives on propellent? How about the overall malaise that comes with change? I am apprehensive.
    If nothing else I think the taxpayers should get a real good video of a real big Ka Boom.

    • I second this proposal……. a world record non-nuclear explosion is what western civilization needs right now to reassert its place in the scheme of things………

    • A virus? The propellant has nitrate, so maybe it could be used for fertilizer. Maybe to give a bigger bang to pop corn?

      After the failure of the first attempt, processing the propellant into mining explosives failed, the EPA proposed open burning which is the traditional way of disposing of excess propellant (unused powder increments) after firing. Although it might be some combination of the safest and quickest way to handle the problem, they tried to force it on the locals without much discussion. The EPA is good at getting stakeholder involvement when it suits them. This time they didn’t and they got serious opposition from the stakeholders. It looks like they are back into the business as usual mode evaluating or bidding on emissions controlled incinerators. The crisis of degrading powder seems to have gone to the back of the line.

      Take a look at EPA’s superfund lists. These things go on for years and years.

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