The Austrian news agency BNN GmbH continues to publish a journalistic investigation in Riga City Council decision to permit building a terminal for handling and storing nitrogen fertilizer on the island of Kundzinsala. Of the planned terminal’s capacity of 2 000 000 tons, ammonium saltpeter will make up 1 050 0000 tons. It is 18 times more than allowed in any other European port. Moreover, it is planned to build the terminal close to other terminals that deal with liquefied gas, chemicals and oil products. This means 3 900 – 7 800 tons of the substance would travel via Riga on daily basis.
Yesterday, September 5, the chapter entitled «FERTILIZERS TRANSFORMING INTO EXPLOSIVES» described how Riga City Council took a decision harmful for the capital of Latvia, what expects it in case “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” is built and how successfully terrorists have used ammonium nitrate in their attacks.
Today we continue this topic.
Ammonium saltpeter and incidents
Ammonium saltpeter is dangerous not only when purchased by terrorists. It can detonate in any explosion, fire and even on spilled fuel or hydraulic fluid. It also explodes during manufacturing, loading and transportation either by rail or any other means of transport. There can be plenty of examples.
USA, the Texas City.
Explosion of 2300 tons of ammonium saltpeter on the French dry cargo ship “Grancan”, 135 meters long, rocked so strong that water vaporized. The substance was packed in 45 kg paper bags. Parts of the ship as heavy as approximately 1 ton were found in a distance of 3.5 km from the coast. Also concrete warehouses and oil derricks located on the other bank of the Gulf were destroyed. A 50 m long barge filled with oil and parked near „Grancan” flied 70 m in the air before landing in a parking lot.
The explosion hit not only 600 cars in different areas of the city, but also two passing sport planes that fell into water. Chemical products plants were on fire, 154 of 450 employees from the chemical plant „Monsanto” were killed and more than 200 badly injured.
Saltpeter and sulfur also detonated on two ferries located close to each other – “High flyer” and “Wilson Keen”. Nearby terminals owned by two oil companies caught the subsequent fire.
Death toll hit 1500 persons in the city and its neighborhood, leaving 5000 injured and several hundreds missing. More than 1100 cars were damaged and 362 cargo wagons turned into scrap metal. Oil processing and chemical industries as well as manufacturing dropped 75%, as 2/3 of the whole Texas were virtually swept away. Total losses exceeded 100 million USD.
By the way, when the dry-cargo ship “Golden Sky”, full of mineral fertilizers, ran aground near Ventspils in 2007, the city was in panic.
Explosion of 300 tons of ammonium saltpeter in the factory of chemicals left a 15 meters deep crater. 30 persons were killed, 3500 injured, with parts of their bodies found in a 15 km distance. 27 000 apartments, 184 kindergartens, 79 schools, 26 colleges and 2 universities suffered serious damages. 134 companies suspended operation and over 40 000 persons were left homeless.
In a 1 km radius around the epicenter of the explosion no building was left untouched. Roofs were torn away and walls damaged in an area of 2-3 km. 8 km from the explosion – in the city centre – windows shattered and light constructions collapsed. The concert hall and the stadium were nearly destroyed. Total damages accounted for 3 billion euro. Public administration offices and insurance companies received around 100 000 compensation claims.
By the way, the company “Uralhim” that is ready to construct the “house” for ammonium saltpeter in cooperation with “Riga Trade Port”, has hardly escaped similar accidents. The last of them was heard in court on April 2011. Future owner of 51% shares of Riga Fertilizer Terminal also owns a chemical plant in Kirovo-Chepecka City. Installation of a pipe for ammonium saltpeter production triggered explosion that killed an employee and injured the shift manager.
North Korea, Ryongchon.
A train carrying ammonium saltpeter blew up, leaving two craters of 10 meters in depth each. The train station was destroyed and 8000 houses in a radius of 0.5 km were blown up or seriously damaged. Death toll hit 162 persons, with 3000 injured.
By the way, only good luck has protected us here in Latvia from a similar tragedy also in Riga. Overnight on August 17, 2010, a hurricane ran into the terminal “Alpha Osta”, which deals with mineral fertilizers. Metallic constructions as high as a 10-storey-house collapsed over the neighboring buildings, the railway and a train.
If these had been wagons with ammonium saltpeter or warehouses full of it, then, according to Mrs. Ērika Bizdena, the professor of chemistry of Riga Technical University, hardly a thing would have escaped explosion and there would be no Vecmīlgrāvis in Riga today. This time we were lucky!
A lorry with a trailer transporting 22 tons of ammonium fell over, with fire leading to an explosion that took 37 lives and injured 150 persons. The explosion left a 18 meters wide and 2 meters deep crater. Also trucks in Riga often exceed speed limit and overturn on the embankment or fall down the bridge as a result. Sometimes they crash into pillars, trains, trolley-busses or simply burn down right on the road.
Ammonium saltpeter and power here and there
The world is not living in any illusions regarding danger of ammonium saltpeter in the era of globalization, especially in countries subject to terrorist threat. Lately, the matter has been concerning mainly member states of NATO and countries participating in NATO operations under the command of its leader – the USA.
Availability of ammonium nitrate, simple technologies for preparation of explosives and difficulties to detect such bombs have turned the chemical subtance into an explosive widely used by terrorist groups such as “ETA” in Spain, “IRA” in Ireland, “FARC” in Colombia, to say nothing of Arab countries and Islam fundamentalists.
The fact it is impossible to guarantee successful combat against terrorist attacks has led to Afghan farmers no longer allowed to use ammonium saltpeter in agriculture. Starting from January 2, 2010, when the decision came into force, they were obliged to give up all their reserves of this substance within a month’s time. The police and the customs detain any volume of it passing the border of Afghanistan. Some time ago, free realization of ammonium saltpeter was banned in Uzbekistan, where the government excluded ammonium saltpeter of the list of products to be sold in retail and stock-exchanges.
Formerly analogue measures were adopted also by the Philippines, China, Colombia, Ireland and other countries.
It is forbidden to store more than 5000 tons of ammonium saltpeter in Russian, Ukrainian as well as European ports. The amount is 18 times less than it is going to be allowed in Riga. Such volumes would not enter Russian manufacturers’ wildest dreams even if they exported via terminals of Russian ports in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Tuapse or Ust-Luga, which is currently under construction.
When the City Council of Ventspils issued an operational permit for the mineral fertilizers terminal “Kālija parks”, storage of ammonium nitrate in the territory of the port was not even on the agenda. It was enough with experts’ conclusion provided by the Institute of Science, Research and Projects on nitrogen production and products of organic synthesis. It included the possible consequences of a terrorist attack or decomposition of 5000 tons of ammonium saltpeter:
- complete damage in an area of 650 m,
- strong damage in an area of 958 m,
- medium damage in an area of 1642 m,
- minor damage in an area of 4790 m.
Now, why don’t you open the map of Riga and mark the radius of 5 kilometers from the location of “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” and match the territory with possible damages listed above. Moreover, it is not just 5000 tons of ammonium saltpeter Riga City Council has allowed to store but as many as 90 000.
Let’s not forget that nearby terminals deal with liquefied gas, oil products, chemicals and other dangerous substances. Keep in mind that Riga City Council members have singed a document that says that 100 m zone around the fertilizer terminal is more than enough to ensure safety.
Probably, Riga City Council’s move can be explained by Regulation No 435 dated 05.08.2003 of the Cabinet of Ministers “REGULATIONS ON TRANSPORTATION OF DANGEROUS CARGOES”, which says that ammonium saltpeter belongs only to the 5th level of danger out of 9. Toxic substances are listed the 6th , followed by radioactive substances in the 7th level.
Other countries take a different approach towards the classification. For example, Bulgaria adopted a law “ON PROTECTION FROM HARMFUL EFFECTS OF CHEMICAL SUBSTANCES AND PRODUCTS” on January 31, 2004. The law includes ammonium saltpeter in the 2nd class of dangerousness – just below explosives.
We uncovered all of the above-mentioned details to a specialist employed in the anti-terrorism field by one of the secret services. We asked him to forecast possible consequences and activities of terrorists if they knew that supply for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan travels via Riga. The answer was discouraging: the rail route of ammonium saltpeter via the capital of Latvia gives room to sabotage. Latest practice shows that also hijacking of ships is possible. In this case, a dry-cargo ship with saltpeter might be targeted at any place, including oil terminals, Vanšu bridge or the President’s Palace, especially, given the narrow waterway of the River Daugava.
It should be taken into account that decomposition of ammonium saltpeter that leads to emergency situations occurs not only in contact with diesel fuel or hydraulic fluids. Contact with zinc powder or pyretic sulfur – can also accelerate decomposition of it The same applies to the contact of ammonium nitrate with heated metal or even drops of it. Even when not exploding, saltpeter is highly dangerous to human beings. Mere dust of it can cause diseases of respiratory organs, while decomposed saltpeter triggers pulmony oedema.
All aforementioned can become a revelation for Riga City Council members who voted for transforming our city into the capital of saltpeter world. Terminals of nitrogen fertilizers mean a continuous inhabitants’ combat for survival.
Something similar to “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” was just recently constructed in the Russian city of Tuapse located 30 km from Sochi.
Luckily, no accidents have occurred yet. The terminal simply pollutes the air, therefore inhabitants of the city have founded a movement called “Let’s save Tuapse!” The governor of Krasnodarsky region failed to solve the problem, so inhabitants of Tuapse asked Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, to involve. Both re-loading and storage of mineral fertilizers at Tuapse port were suspended.
Before launching this project in Riga, “Uralhim” planned to construct the terminal in the port of the French city Dieppe, situated on the bank of the English Channel. To compare with 2 000 000 tons of yearly transit via Riga, French variant provided only 240 000. Of 70 billion dollar investments in Riga project, the French project cost only 14.5 billion dollars. In comparison to 700 000 of inhabitants residing in Riga, Dieppe population totals only 35 000.
Compared to the Latvian State Environmental Supervision Service that approved construction at an exceptional speed, the French Regional Direction based its decision on in-depth research and opinion of the environment protecting institutions, finally refusing “Uralhim” a permit to carry out the terminal project for a period of 2 years. Probably, it was the real reason for re-location of the terminal to the capital of Latvia. Only 29 interested persons participated in the public discussion in Latvia, while Dieppe attracted many more to discuss “Uralhim” project.
Parties interested included political forces, municipalities, members of local authorities, inhabitants of the city, journalists, farmers, activists of the International social-economic community, etc. The following slogans surrounded the whole debate: “Plant of “Uralhim”? – Non, merci!”, “Working places – not for any price!”, “Against “Uralhim” – for the health of our children!”, “Dieppe was sold out to “Uralhim”. Such top members of the Senate and the Upper House of the French Parliament as representatives of the “Greens” – Jean Désessar and Marie-Christine Blandin stood shoulder to shoulder with protesting people.
There are questions but no answers
That’s the story. The price of construction of the terminal welcoming thousands of tons of ammonium saltpeter from Russia and probably from other CIS countries seems to uncover latent dimensions concealed from the eyes of Riga City Council members. Why? We don’t have the answer yet. However, what we do have is many questions:
= to the Minister of Interior: Is the ministry able to guarantee security of transportation of ammonium saltpeter via the whole city of Riga to Kundziņsala?
= to the Minister of Defense: Is the military secret service able to guarantee interception of terrorist plans in case they decide to plan a sabotage on the chain that ensures delivery and storage of 1 050 000 tons of ammonium saltpeter in Latvia?
= to the Minister of Justice: Is the ministry able to guarantee and confirm that ALL binding and effective laws, rules and regulations are observed during Riga Fertilizer Terminal construction in Riga port?
= to the Minister or Environment Protection and Regional Development: Is the ministry able to provide a justified answer why the environment protection norms regarding the potential dangerousness due to the presence of ammonium saltpeter are applicable in France but not in Latvia?
= to the Constitution Defense Office (SAB): Is the office able to convince the inhabitants of Latvia with justified proof that there are no grounds to worry about Riga being transformed into a huge warehouse of ammonium saltpeter?
= to the deputies of Latvian Parliament (Saeima): Doesn’t the text of your oath “to fulfill duties honestly and in good faith” mean that the decision to overload Riga with ammonium saltpeter taken by 45 deputies of the Riga City Council gives you grounds enough to establish an investigation commission of the Parliament?
= to deputies of the European Parliament representing the Republic of Latvia: Isn’t now the time to inform the European society about “particularities” of terrorism prevention in Latvia and present the opinion of your colleagues to your electorate?
= to deputies of the Riga City Council: Would you agree to guarantee full security of transportation via Riga and further storage of 1 050 000 tons of ammonium saltpeter in the port of Riga, pledging ALL your personal properties as a collateral?
Of course, the last question does not apply to the deputy Dr. Phil. Elmārs Vebers from the party “Vienotība” (Unity), who was the only person to vote against the decision taken by the Riga City Council. We could compare him to the person praised in the song of a well-known Russian singer Visocky “And there was one, who didn’t shoot”.
We have no answers to these questions yet, however, we keep insisting that Riga is about to turn into a ticking time bomb on a continental scale.
In the next part of the journalistic research “INHABITANTS OF THE CAPITAL OF LATVIA BECOMING HOSTAGES OF MONEYBAGS” we will uncover who stands behind “Riga Fertilizer Terminal” project from the part of Latvia.
And here is more: all statements formulated in the text of this research have documentary proof and testimonies.