skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Analysis of the accidental explosion at Pepcon, Henderson, Nevada, May 4, 1988

Abstract

Several hours of fire and numerous explosions destroyed the Pacific Engineering Company plant in Henderson, Nevada, that manufactured ammonium perchlorate (AP) for rocket fuel. This incident began about 1130 PDT on May 4, 1988, with a fire in their Batch House that grew out of control and caused a first large explosion at about 1153 PDT. The final and largest explosion occurred about 1157 PDT. Damages to the surrounding community were surveyed and interpreted as airblast overpressures versus distances, which allowed an estimate of 1-kiloton nuclear free-air-burst for the equivalent explosion yield. This could be reproduced by 250-tons TNT burst on the ground surface. Weather reports were obtained from the National Weather Services which indicated somewhat enhanced airblast propagation downwind toward northerly directions and attenuated airblast propagations upwind in southerly directions. It was impossible, for lack of winds aloft information below about 500 m above ground, to determine whether there was any atmospheric acoustic airblast focusing. Several seismic recordings in Las Vegas showed the greatest ground motion resulted from the airblast wave passage, traveling at near acoustic speed. Ground wave arrival times were not sufficiently precise to allow seismic speed interpretations. Of the 4000 tons of AP apparently stored inmore » and around the plant, it appears that about 1500 tons detonated in the largest explosion. This leads to a conclusion that the TNT airblast equivalence factor for AP is near 1/6. An independent estimate, based on analysis of more ideal close-in structural deformations, suggested an equivalence factor of 1/3. 25 refs., 12 figs., 14 tabs.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Sandia National Labs., Albuquerque, NM (USA)
OSTI Identifier:
6610302
Report Number(s):
SAND-88-2902
ON: DE89004503
DOE Contract Number:  
AC04-76DP00789
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Other Information: Paper copy only, copy does not permit microfiche production
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; PROPELLANTS; CHEMICAL EXPLOSIONS; SAFETY; EVALUATION; BLAST EFFECTS; DAMAGE; FAILURE MODE ANALYSIS; FIRE FIGHTING; FIRES; GROUND MOTION; NEVADA; ROCKETS; SEISMIC EVENTS; EXPLOSIONS; FEDERAL REGION IX; MOTION; NORTH AMERICA; SYSTEM FAILURE ANALYSIS; SYSTEMS ANALYSIS; USA; 450100* - Military Technology, Weaponry, & National Defense- Chemical Explosions & Explosives

Citation Formats

Reed, J. W. Analysis of the accidental explosion at Pepcon, Henderson, Nevada, May 4, 1988. United States: N. p., 1988. Web. doi:10.2172/6610302.
Reed, J. W. Analysis of the accidental explosion at Pepcon, Henderson, Nevada, May 4, 1988. United States. doi:10.2172/6610302.
Reed, J. W. Tue . "Analysis of the accidental explosion at Pepcon, Henderson, Nevada, May 4, 1988". United States. doi:10.2172/6610302. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6610302.
@article{osti_6610302,
title = {Analysis of the accidental explosion at Pepcon, Henderson, Nevada, May 4, 1988},
author = {Reed, J. W.},
abstractNote = {Several hours of fire and numerous explosions destroyed the Pacific Engineering Company plant in Henderson, Nevada, that manufactured ammonium perchlorate (AP) for rocket fuel. This incident began about 1130 PDT on May 4, 1988, with a fire in their Batch House that grew out of control and caused a first large explosion at about 1153 PDT. The final and largest explosion occurred about 1157 PDT. Damages to the surrounding community were surveyed and interpreted as airblast overpressures versus distances, which allowed an estimate of 1-kiloton nuclear free-air-burst for the equivalent explosion yield. This could be reproduced by 250-tons TNT burst on the ground surface. Weather reports were obtained from the National Weather Services which indicated somewhat enhanced airblast propagation downwind toward northerly directions and attenuated airblast propagations upwind in southerly directions. It was impossible, for lack of winds aloft information below about 500 m above ground, to determine whether there was any atmospheric acoustic airblast focusing. Several seismic recordings in Las Vegas showed the greatest ground motion resulted from the airblast wave passage, traveling at near acoustic speed. Ground wave arrival times were not sufficiently precise to allow seismic speed interpretations. Of the 4000 tons of AP apparently stored in and around the plant, it appears that about 1500 tons detonated in the largest explosion. This leads to a conclusion that the TNT airblast equivalence factor for AP is near 1/6. An independent estimate, based on analysis of more ideal close-in structural deformations, suggested an equivalence factor of 1/3. 25 refs., 12 figs., 14 tabs.},
doi = {10.2172/6610302},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {1988},
month = {11}
}