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WSMR RANGE-WIDE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

3.12.1.8 High-explosive Tests. The Defense Nuclear Agency conducts high-explosive tests
in an area west of the Oscura Mountains, southwest of Trinity Site, on WSMR. The testing
area is referred to as the Permanent High Explosive Test Site (PHETS). Proposed testing
over the next 20 years consists of small and large high-explosive detonations. The purpose
of such testing is to study explosive characteristics; to conduct phenomenology experiments;
and to expose structures, military systems, and military equipment to blast, shock, and
thermal phenomena that simulate nuclear weapons effects. The Defense Nuclear Agency
detonates between 544 and 8,854 metric tons (600 and 9,760 tons) of ammonium nitrate fuel
oil (ANFO) every other year, four l8-metric-ton (20-ton) high-explosive explosions per year,
and five 0.5-metric-ton (1,000-lb) high-explosive explosions each year through the 20-year
life of the program (McMullan et al. 1987).

A fraction of a second impulse noise produced by a high-explosive detonation has the
potential to cause ear injury at close range. The threshold for eardrum rupture in humans is 5
psi, which translates to 140 m (459 ft) for an l8-metric-ton (20-ton) detonation, 427 m (1,400
ft) for a 907-metric-ton (1,000-ton) detonation, and 1,067 m (3,500 ft) for a 14,515-metric
ton (16,000-ton) detonation. No personnel would be this close to Defense Nuclear Agency
detonations (McMullan et al. 1987).

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 2206 and U.S. Army Instruction
6055.3 references establish 140 dB as the upper limit for exposure to impulse noise. This
limit is designed for industrial applications where noise in the workplace can be measured.
The limit is based on the premise that the noise is in the range of normal hearing (100 to
18,000 Hz). Industrial conditions are not applicable for short exposure to the noise from a
large detonation at a distance where the higher frequencies have been attenuated by the
atmosphere (McMullan et al. 1987).

Table 3-57 shows several PHETS measurement points, their corresponding ranges, and SELs
for large-scale detonations. Because of the high SEL, exposed persons wear hearing
protection devices at the locations shown in the table. Persons inside closed instrumentation
trailers at the timing and firing park would not require hearing protection. This is not true for
the office trailers in the administration area or the other locations shown in the table. All
exposed persons closer than 9,200 m (30,200 ft) would be required to wear ear protection
devices for detonations of 907 metric tons (1,000 tons) or larger. For l8-metric-ton (20-ton)
detonations, only two locations exceed 140 dB: 147 dB at the administration area and 152
dB at the observation point (McMullan et al. 1987).

Although there are limited data on noise impact on wildlife, some data exist on test animals.
There is a l-percent probability that small animals can suffer eardrum rupture at a distance of
1,067 m (3,500 ft) from ground zero for 14,515-metric-ton (16,000-ton) detonations.
Eardrum rupture occurring at 103,000 Pa (15 psi) and less are self-healing within two days.
This overpressure occurs within 595 m (1,925 ft) for all detonation sizes discussed. There
could be some temporary or possibly permanent hearing damage in animals at ranges closer
than 3 km (1.9 mi) for 7,076- and 14,515-metric-ton (8,000- and 16,000-ton) detonations. As
the range from ground zero increases, the noise from large-scale detonations would decrease
until, at roughly 5 km (3 mi), it would sound like a loud thunderclap. Animals within 2 to 3
km (1.2 to 1.9 mi) probably would be startled into some action such as fleeing or running for
cover. The noise level beyond these ranges would sound like thunder or a sonic boom, which
are common in the PHETS area of WSMR. There is conflicting information published about
stress effects on animals. The infrequent large-scale test detonations minimize impacts.
Smaller tests would not create a significant noise problem. The distance to which 160 dB
extends for 0.5-metric-ton (1,000-lb) tests is 400 m (1,312 ft) and for 18-metric-ton (20-ton)

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