Our fertilizer is now less explodey

Pax Arcana

Scientists at chemical corporation Honeywell say they’ve found a way to treat ammonium nitrate — commonly known as fertilizer — in order to render it non-explosive.

Finally our tomatoes can enjoy a bit of peace of mind. Oh, and the rest of us too:

Ammonium nitrate can be soaked in diesel fuel to produce a powerful bomb and is a favorite of terrorists, but when chemically tied to the ammonium sulfate, its chemical structure is changed so that it is no longer explosive.

Chemists had been looking for ways to render ammonium nitrate nonexplosive since the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by a truck bomb in 1995, killing 168.

The flaming bag of poop — the original fertilizer bomb

While “safeguarding the livelihood of America and its citizens” might be the most obvious benefit of this discovery, it wasn’t the incentive:

An agriculture expert not affiliated with Honeywell, Jack Rabin, associate director for farm programs at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, said many companies were looking for ways to render ammonium nitrate inert, because the Department of Homeland Security requires that farmers safeguard their stockpiles of the widely used fertilizer and report their inventories to the government.

In other words, the multinational agricultural conglomerates that grow, process, package, and ship our corn nuggets had to do an awful lot of padlocking and paperwork in the wake of Oklahoma City, and Lord knows we can’t have that.

New Process Eliminates a Fertilizer’s Blast Threat [NYT]


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