Photo: Beirut after the blast
Several Australian residents of Newcastle, a city north of Sydney, have called for the government to move a large ammonium nitrate plant after the disastrous blast that happened in Beirut, Lebanon.
According to reports, the chemical plant in Newcastle current stockpiles four times the amount of ammonium nitrate that was in the Beirut port.
The explosion of the Lebanese port was blamed on a very large stockpile of the highly explosive material being stored in an unsafe manner for several years, with Tuesday’s explosion killing at least 145 people, whilst injuring more than 5,000 and leaving plenty of parts of the city destroyed.
At the port, an estimated 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were involved in the explosion.
The amount stored in the Australian plant tops this massively, with there being between 6,000 to 12,000 tonnes of the material at the Kooragang Island plant in Newcastle’s port.
As a result of the huge numbers of the material in stock, resident groups have started to campaign for the plant to be relocated, with plenty wanting to avoid the possibilities of a disaster to happen like that in Lebanon.
Chemical engineer and community campaigner Keith Craig told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that it is a “totally inappropriate place to have such a dangerous material produced and stored, and it’s something we’ve been complaining about for many, many years”.
Craig is one of the 300 residents currently forming part of the Stockton Community Action Group, campaigning to relocate the Orica plant, or at least to significantly reduce the number of ammonium nitrate being stored at the plant.
Through a statement, Orica claimed that it is currently following all of the international standards and local regulations so that safety is ensured throughout all of the stages of the supply chain.
Orica claimed that ammonium nitrate “storage areas are fire resistant and built exclusively from non-flammable materials”.
The company added that it is undertaking a “rigorous, best-practice approach” in order to guarantee safety during production, storage and also transport.
Some reports claim that fireworks were being stored near the storage at the Beirut port, whilst other reports state that a welder had started the fire.
Orica concluded by saying that the way the material was stored in Beirut “cannot be compared to the responsible and heavily regulated production, storage and transport” of the material by Orica and other plants in Australia.