Thanks for that article, Jerry.
Curious though, that while it discusses the threat from acutely toxic chemicals, it includes a photo and caption of "The FMC Corporation hydrogen peroxide purification plant in Pasadena, Texas."
In my pre-AECL days, among other things, I worked on a project for the Chemprox peroxide plant in Becancour, next door to Gentilly-2. But I wasn't aware of any acutely toxic chemicals being used there -- the purification process mentioned in the article merely involves distillation of the peroxide to separate out water and increase H2O2 concentration to 30%, 50% or 70% (though most of the output is the 30% concentrate, since this satisfies the need of most industrial customers, such as pulp & paper mills... you can see the peroxide distillation towers as you pass by on your way to G-2). The (liquid) peroxide itself is only hazardous on contact or ingestion, and only becomes an explosion hazard at concentrations approaching 90% and higher (if appropriate stabilisation chemicals are not added). And of course we all have peroxide (3 to 5%) in our homes for disinfecting small wounds....
Even the production process itself doesn't seem excessively chemical-toxicity-hazard-prone -- it involves another liquid material (anthraquinone - a fire hazard not unlike fuel) and compressed hydrogen gas -- that wonderfully safe stuff we all want to drive around with, once we have fuel-cell-powered cars, right ?
From: Jerry Cuttler [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday March 14, 2002 6:58 PM
To: cdn-nucl-l (E-mail)
Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] Terrorist attack on chemical plant much worse than for nuclear plant
The FMC Corporation hydrogen peroxide purification plant in Pasadena, Texas (Photo courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
On Monday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit against the U.S. Justice Department, charging that the agency has missed a deadline to submit a report to Congress on U.S. chemical plants' vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The Justice Department was required to issue this interim report under the Clean Air Act by August 2000.
"Attorney General Ashcroft says he's concerned about homeland security, but his department is a year and a half late on providing essential information to Congress about chemical plant vulnerability," said Rena Steinzor, an academic fellow and attorney at NRDC. "We need that information to protect citizens from releases of acutely toxic chemicals that could wreak havoc in the event of a terrorist attack."
The American Chemical Council, Steinzor added, has repeatedly cited the Justice Department's failure to issue the report as a key reason why Congress should not yet enact legislation requiring greater security at U.S. chemical plants.
Such legislation has been introduced before Congress, however.
"There is widespread agreement that chemical plants are potentially attractive to terrorists. So we need to take steps to reduce hazards and improve security at plants," said Senator Jon Corzine, a New Jersey Democrat, author of the Chemical Security Act. The Act is cosponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, and James Jeffords, a Vermont Independent.
The Chemical Security Act would require companies that manufacture, use or store hazardous chemicals to make processes safer by reducing chemical quantities, switching to safer chemicals, or storing chemicals under safer conditions, starting with the facilities that pose the greatest risk.
The Safe Hometowns Initiative, a coalition of citizen groups, is calling for immediate community efforts and federal policy changes to reduce chemical hazards. This week, the coalition helped release the report by PIRG, "Protecting Our Hometowns," and the "Safe Hometowns Guide," a citizens' guide to reducing chemical hazards in communities.
"More guards and higher fences alone cannot protect our communities," said Sanford Lewis, consultant and author of the Safe Hometowns Guide. "These may be useless against terrorists known to use passenger planes and truck bombs. The good news is that we can reduce the chemicals at these sites and make it harder for terrorists to hurt people."
The Safe Hometowns Guide explains how citizens can make their communities less vulnerable to a chemical attack and safer in the event of a chemical release. Among other examples, the guide cites changes in hundreds of New Jersey drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities and a Washington, DC wastewater treatment plant that have recently switched from toxic chlorine gas to a less hazardous alternative, sodium hypochlorite.
An aerial view of the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant outside Washington DC (Photo courtesy District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority)
The Washington facility, the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, made the move within weeks of September 11th, eliminating the possibility of a toxic chlorine cloud spreading across the nation's capital.
"For years we've been focused on responding to chemical releases, rather than preventing them," said Dr. Tee Guidotti, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University Medical Center. "The events of September 11th gave us an imperative to change that. There may not be time to respond in a meaningful way to an armed attack. We have to make our communities less attractive to terrorists by eliminating vulnerability to chemical hazards."
The "Safe Hometowns Guide" is available at: http://www.environet.org/safetowns
The PIRG report, "Protecting Our Hometowns," is available at: http://www.pirg.org/reports