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Pure AN is a colourless, water soluble, crystalline substance. Pure ammonium nitrate melts at 170
Cand decomposes above 210
C producing copious clouds of toxic fumes (mainly oxides of nitrogen)that may be yellow or brown. Some fertiliser grades of AN have an increased susceptibility to slowburning (cigar burning) due to chloride in the formulation associated with potassium as an additive.The Explosive grade or Technical grade is a lower density prilled material designed to absorb fuel.Technical grade AN, supplied as a porous material in prilled form, have a density in range 700–800g/litre. Ammonium nitrate readily absorbs water and is very soluble (190 grams dissolve in 100grams of water at 20
C). AN sold for fertiliser is the same substance as AN sold for use as anexplosive.Whenever AN passes 32
C it undergoes a crystal change known as thermal cycling. It results in theprill breaking down, caking and becoming less useful as an explosive as it cannot absorb fuel.Prilled AN may start to decompose at lower temperatures than for pure AN due to chemicaladditives. Decomposition of AN takes place through several reactions:
In early stage sublimation to ammonia and nitric acid dominates.
At slightly higher temperature, nitrous oxide (N2O) is the main decomposition product.
Above 260 degrees C toxic nitrogen oxide gases (NOx) are formed in considerable amounts.Ammonium nitrate is an oxidising agent so it supplies oxygen to the fuel in a fire and supportsburning even when air is excluded. AN is classified as an oxidising agent Class 5.1 (UN No. 1942 fortechnical grade and UN No. 2067 for fertilizer grade). Being an oxidiser, AN will support the burningof organic matter. Technical grade AN is used extensively to support the “fast” burning required inexplosives.In a fire pools of hot molten ammonium nitrate may form and if confined (e.g in a drain) mayexplode. This is because hot and molten ammonium nitrate becomes very sensitive to shockparticularly if it contacts incompatible material. As the size of the AN stack increases or the densityof the product decreases, the vulnerability to detonation increases.Thus, Ammonium Nitrate has three main hazards (I) toxic decomposition products, (II) fire due tooxidising nature and (III) explosion.
International approaches to regulating Ammonium Nitrate
: In the matter of framing andimplementing Regulations on Ammonium Nitrate, Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) standis remarkable. COAG has developed principles regarding the use, manufacture, storage, transport,supply, import and export of security sensitive ammonium nitrate (SSAN). Various States andTerritories around Australia are currently working on adopting these principles through legislativechanges. The intent of these changes is to limit SSAN access to only those who are authorised to use,manufacture, store, transport, supply, import and export this material; thereby mitigating the risk of a significant terrorist event occurring in Australia.In the United States (US), about half of the 1.8 million tonnes of ammonium nitrate sold each year isused for fertiliser. However, only a few states have introduced regulations for controlling the sale of ammonium nitrate fertilisers. These regulations require retailers to be licensed, obtain valididentification from the buyer, keep transaction records and report any suspicious purchases.Retailers in other US states have adopted a voluntary security campaign, Be Aware America, wherethey report suspicious transactions involving ammonium nitrate.In 2007 and 2011, the Department of Homeland Security introduced national standards for chemical