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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-75-016
Details
Synopsis: AT 12:32 P.M. ON AUGUST 6, 1974, A SHIPMENT OF MONOMETHYLAMINE NITRATE SOLUTION (PRM) DETONATED DURING ROUTINE SWITCHING OPERATIONSIN THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN INC. APPLE YARD IN WENATCHEE, WASHINGTON.THE EXPLOSION KILLED 2 PERSONS, INJURED 113, AND DESTROYED EQUIPMENTAND BUILDINGS. ESTIMATED LOSSES EXCEEDED $7,500,000. THE NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD WAS UNABLE TO DETERMINE THE PROBABLE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT. A PARTIAL LIST OF THE POSSIBILITIES THAT COULD NOT BE RULED OUT COMPLETELY INCLUDES A REACTION OF DRIED CRYSTALS, A REACTION OF SPILLED OR LEAKING CRYSTALS IN THE INSULATION SPACE, A REACTION IN ONE OF THE TANK COMPONENTS, CAVITATION AND RECOMPRESSION OF THE SOLUTION, COMPRESSION OF AN AIR BUBBLE ENTRAINED IN THE SOLUTION, A REACTION OF SOLUTION OR CRYSTALSSENSITIZED BY CONTAMINATION, OR THE IGNITION OF ESCAPED PRODUCT BY FRICTION. THE SAFETY BOARD CONCLUDES THAT THE CLASSIFICATION OF MONOMETHYLAMINE NITRATE AS A "FLAMMABLE SOLID" PERMITTED SHIPMENT OFTHE CHEMICAL WITHOUT PROPER SAFEGUARDS AGAINST PREDICTABLE HAZARDOUSCONDITIONS.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: IDENTIFY ALL LIQUIDS NOW TRANSPORTED IN TANK CARS WHICH ARE CAPABLE OF DETONATION; DETERMINE WHETHER DETONATION OR OTHER DANGEROUS CHEMICAL REACTIONS CAN BE INITIATED BY CONDITIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES ENCOUNTERED BY THOSE LIQUIDS IN RAILROAD TRANSPORTATION AND ISSUE REGULATIONS TO CONTROL THE RISKS IDENTIFIED.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Wenatchee, WA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: 80170
Accident Reports: Burlington Northern Inc., Monomethylamine Nitrite Explosion
Report #: RAR-76-01
Accident Date: 8/6/1974
Issue Date: 4/24/1975
Date Closed: 10/1/1982
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 10/1/1982
Response: Closed--Acceptable Alternate Action

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/14/1982
Response: FRA LTR: FRA HAS REVISED HAZARDOUS MATERIAL TANK CAR SAFETY REQUIREMENTS TO REDUCE THE LIKELIHOOD OF A RELEASE IN THE EVENT OF AN ACCIDENT, AND IS CONCENTRATING ITS EFFORTS ON CREATING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE TRANSPORT OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS. THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RAIL TRANSPORT OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS ARE DECLINING. FRA PROJECTS THAT DUE LARGELY TO THE NEW TANK CAR SAFETY REQUIREMENTS, THE ANNUAL NUMBER OF RELEASES OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS WILL CONTINUE TO DECLINE. FRA'S INCREASE EMPHASIS ON INSPECTION BY ITS FIELD FORCES OF ROUTES OVER WHICH SUCH MATERIALS TRAVEL IS ALSO AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THIS PROGRAM. A NATIONAL INSPECTION PLAN HAS BEEN DEVELOPED AND WILL BE REVISED ANNUALLY. TRACK INSPECTION IS AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THE EFFORT TO REDUCE THE RISK OF CATASTROPHIC ACCIDENTS. FRA AND STATE INSPEC TORS WILL INSPECT, AT LEAST ONCE ANNUALLY, THE 92,000 MILE NETWORK OF TRACK OVER WHICH ALL AMTRAK SERVICE AND 95 PER CENT OF THE TOTAL TON-MILEAGE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS ARE HANDLED. IN ADDITION , 34,000 MILES OF THIS TRACK WILL BE REINSPECTED BY FRA ANNUALLY. THE TRACK PLANNED FOR HAZAR DOUS MATERIALS IS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN. THESE CATEGORIES ARE NON-FLAMMABLE COMPRESSED GASES, FLAMMABLE COMPRESSED GASES, FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS, AND CLASS A AND B POISONS. OTHER FRA INSPECTION ACTIVITIES ARE ALSO FOCUSED ON THE 92,000 MILE NETWORK. OPERATING PRACTICES INSPECTORS EVALUATE TRAIN OPERATIONS OF THESE LINES, EQUIPMENT INSPECTORS CONCENTRATE ON REPAIR FACILITIES AND DISPATCHING POINTS SERVING THESE LINES, AND SIGNAL TRAIN CONTROL INSPECTORS MONITOR THE MAINTENANCE CONCERN TO HAZARDOUS MATERIALS INSPECTORS, ESPECIALLY AT POINTS WHERE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SHIPMENTS ORIGINATE OR TERMINATE.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/27/1977
Response: FRA LTR: OFFICE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS OPERATIONS RECENTLY COMPLETED A REQUEST FOR A PROPOSAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTOCOL FOR SYSTEMATIC HAZARDOUS MATERIALS CLASSIFICA TION. THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROJECT IS TO IMPLEMENT AN EFFECTIVE HAZARD CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM BASED ON ALL THE RELEVANT FACTORS INFLUENCING THE HAZARDOUSNESS OF MATERIAL TRANSPORTATION. ONE OF THE MAJOR BENEFITS OF THIS SYSTEM WILL BE THE AVOIDANCE OF THE RISK OF MISCLASSIFICATION OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 11/4/1977
Response: I would appreciate any recent information which has been developed as a result of the Office of Hazardous Materials efforts, particularly those relating to Safety Recommendation R-75-16.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/11/1975
Response: FRA LETTER: IT IS EXPECTED THAT RESEARCH WILL IMPROVE OUR OVERALL KNOWLEDGE AND SERVE AS GENERAL REFERENCE TO FUTURE REGULATORY DEVELOPMENT.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 6/10/1975
Response: We understand and share your concern for the possible problem of liquids detonating in other containers, and your interest in avoiding duplicative and redundant efforts. However, to our knowledge the only catastrophic explosions of this type have involved tank car shipments. Thus, the tank car problem appears most urgent. It is unclear from your letter how the research described will be applied to the problem of determining whether detonation or other dangerous chemical reaction can be initiated by condition and circumstances encountered by liquids capable of detonation in railroad tank cars, and when amendments to the regulations, if required, might be expected to result from this effort. Your assistance in clarifying these points would be greatly appreciated.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/21/1975
Response: FRA LTR: FRA BELIEVES THAT THE POSSIBLE PROBLEM OF LIQUIDS IN TANKS DETONATING DURING TRANSPORTATION IS NOT CONFINED TO TANK CARS. MTB IS WORKING ON THE PROBLEM. FRA SHARES THE BOARD'S CONCERN THAT DOT MAY NOT BE AWARE OF ALL HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BULK TRANSPORTATION OF LIQUID CHEMICALS.