A crowded forum of 200 people organised by the Stockton Community Action Group learned about the serious risks posed by a proposed ammonium nitrate storage facility at nearby Kooragang Island on September 19.
The new facility is proposed by Incitic Pivot and would add 21,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the 9000 tonnes already stored there by rival company Orica.
The forum was told that ammonium nitrate can become highly explosive very quickly. It can be set off by shock waves, foreign matter, heat and pressure and has been used in terrorist attacks. It was used in the Oklahoma, Delhi, Oslo and World Trade Centre bombings – and is often being used in Afghanistan.
Ammonium nitrate's explosive power is staggering. In 2001 in Toulouse, a French city slightly larger than Newcastle, 300 tonnes exploded, killing and seriously injuring people up to 5km away. In Texas in 1947, an explosion of 2200 tonnes killed and injured hundreds of people up to 50km away and knocked two small planes out of the sky.
Permission has just been given to another firm to reuse old storage tanks for 50,000 to 100,000 litres of oil. Keith Craig from the Stockton Community Action Group said the explosive potential of this approached that of the bomb that wiped out Hiroshima in 1945.
There were two resolutions passed at the meeting:
“1. This meeting calls on the State Government to reject Incitec's proposal to build an ammonium nitrate plant on Kooragang Island and to ensure that any further developments on Kooragang Island are safe for neighbouring residential communities.
“2. This meeting calls on the Government to have a Public Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Port of Newcastle, its future development and cumulative effects of this development and also that the views of people in greater Newcastle are taken into account in this Inquiry.”