Hazardous material response

Describe a hazmat incident involving either a radioactive or U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) explosive material that you have responded to, read about, or witnessed. How was the incident mitigated? If you were the incident commander, what would you have done differently?
Chemistry of Some Explosives
and Radioactive Materials
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
2. Analyze chemical interactions as they relate to control of potential hazards.
2.1 Determine the chemical interactions and associated hazards of some explosives and
radioactive materials.
6. Apply information resources commonly used in emergency response operations.
6.1 Utilize information resources commonly used in emergency response operations involving
explosives and radioactive materials.
7. Examine widely used hazardous materials classification and labeling systems.
7.1 Identify classification and labeling systems applicable to explosives and radioactive materials.
Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
Unit Lesson
Chapter 15, pp. 696–731
Chapter 16, pp. 736–789
Unit VII Case Study
Unit Lesson
Chapter 15, pp. 696–731
Chapter 16, pp. 736–789
Unit VII Case Study
Unit Lesson
Chapter 15, pp. 696–731
Chapter 16, pp. 736–789
Unit VII Case Study
Required Unit Resources
Chapter 15: Chemistry of Some Explosives, pp. 696–731
Chapter 16: Radioactive Materials, pp. 736–789
Unit Lesson
Unit VII will be about the last two classes of hazardous materials that are included in this course: explosives
and radioactive materials.
We all know what an explosive is, but how is it defined? For our purposes in this course, we will focus on the
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) explosive materials, specifically chemical explosives such as TNT
(trinitroglycerin), ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil), etc. Thus, we are going to use DOT’s definition,
which describes an explosive as a substance or a device that is designed to function by explosion, or that, by
chemical reaction with itself, can function similarly, even if not designed to function by explosion (Meyer,
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Chemistry of Explosive Materials
According to Meyer (2020), chemical explosives are components of the following:

ammunitions used for sporting activities;
charges implanted during the mining of ores, tunneling through mountains, etc.; and
artillery and munitions during wartime to disable the enemy.
Incidents associated with the above uses of explosives are uncommon. However, explosives are also being
used as active components of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), such as the three suicide bombers who
detonated explosives at the Brussels Airport and metro stations in 2016, killing 32 people. There is also the
1995 Oklahoma bombing in which ANFO was used, killing 168 people and injuring 850 (Meyer, 2020).
In the United States, the following agencies have some regulations or requirements applicable to explosives.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requires persons producing, selling,
transferring, purchasing, or storing explosives to obtain a federal explosive license (FEL).
The Department of State and the Department of Commerce regulate the export and re-export of
explosives. Licensees are authorized to export or re-export explosives only to certain countries
identified by the department and consistent with the terms of the issued export license.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues regulations governing the security of highrisk chemical facilities, including any facility that possesses explosives. DHS also registers persons
who operate facilities producing, selling, transferring and purchasing explosives.
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) minimally requires the manufacturers,
distributors, and importers of explosives to post the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) explosive
pictogram on the labels of explosives in hazard class divisions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4, in addition to a
signal word and appropriate hazard and precautionary statements. OSHA does not require the
posting of any pictogram on the labels of packaging containing an explosive in hazard class divisions
1.5 or 1.6.
The general characteristics of explosives are listed below.

Explosive substances can readily detonate or can be detonated.
Explosive articles are manufactured items that contain explosive
materials; see Table 15.1 for examples.
Additional Information on Explosive Materials
Detonation is the instantaneous decomposition of an explosive material
characterized by the rapid passing of energy waves through the explosive
material. Large amounts of gases and vapors are produced with high heat and
pressure shock waves. Speed is higher than the speed of sound.
Illustration of comic booklike dynamite sticks.
(Nn555, n.d.)
Detonation velocity is the speed of the energy wave. The detonation velocity is
higher than the speed of sound, which is 1,250 ft/sec (Burke, 2003). On average, the detonation velocity of
explosive material is 23,000 ft/sec (Meyer, 2020).
Detonation temperature is the explosive’s detonation temperature.
Brisance is the potential shattering power of the explosive.
Deflagration is the chemical transformation of an explosive by rapid combustion; the speed is slower than the
speed of sound.
When an explosive detonates, the products of decomposition are carbon particulates (soot), carbon
monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and nitrogen oxides, oxygen, and water vapor. Emergency responders
should always acknowledge that explosives possess a high degree of hazard, including death (Meyer 2020).
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
The classification of explosives based on speed and sensitivity are listed below:

high explosives or detonating explosives and
low explosives or deflagrating explosives.
Storing Explosives
All applicable federal, state, and local regulations require that explosives be stored in magazines. A magazine
is any building, room, or vessel used exclusively for receiving, storing, and dispensing explosives (Meyer,
2020). There are five types of magazines, and they are listed and described on pages 706–707 of the
textbook. Some specific regulations promulgated by the ATF are also listed in the textbook for your
Transporting Explosives
The DOT regulates the transportation of specific types of explosive articles and explosive substances listed in
the Hazardous Materials Table. These explosives are divided into six divisions that form a continuum of
decreasing hazard from 1.1 to 1.6. When the word forbidden appears in column 3 of the Hazardous Materials
Table, the designation signifies a forbidden explosive, one whose transportation is prohibited by any mode.
The DOT may permit the forbidden explosive to be transported if it has been desensitized, which means its
ability to detonate has been reduced.
Responding to Incidents Involving a Release of Explosives
Under routine conditions, responding to an emergency incident involving explosives should be undertaken
only by competent and experienced individuals who have received specialized training in the handling of
explosives (Meyer, 2020).
Combustible Dust
Although combustible dust is not a DOT explosive material, it has explosion hazards that safety, fire, and
environmental professionals must recognize. (See the Unit III Lesson for information on combustible dust and
where additional information can be obtained.)
Chemistry of Radioactive Materials
When people hear the term radioactive, some will probably think of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant incident in Japan or the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. Some may think of the atomic bomb dropped in
Japan to end World War II. In these events, there was a release of radioactive materials. We will discover in
this chapter that these events are associated with the occurrence of one or more nuclear processes. There
are serious health risks associated with exposure to radioactive materials.
According to Meyer (2020), to eliminate or minimize the impact of these risks in the United States, Congress
delegated some regulatory responsibilities to the agencies listed below.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the civilian nuclear energy industry by licensing
the construction and operation of the nation’s nuclear power plants.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) oversees the research and development of new and creative
means of reducing nuclear waste. The DOE also oversees the construction and operation of nuclear
waste disposal sites and responds to releases of radioactive material from any source.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes radiation exposure limits to protect
public health. These limits apply to natural radiation and the radiation from spent radioactive materials
in storage. The EPA also monitors the levels of radioactivity in air, precipitation, drinking water, and
milk at 164 monitoring stations spread throughout the 50 states.
OSHA establishes radiation-exposure limits that protect employees who use radioactive materials
within the workplace that are not regulated by the NRC or DOE.
The DOT ensures that shippers and carriers adopt procedures to eliminate or minimize the risks
associated with transporting radioactive materials.
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Basic Information on Radioactive MaterialsUNIT x STUDY GUIDE
Atomic Nuclei
As discussed in Chapter 4, the nucleus of an atom contains protons and neutrons. Although the nuclei of all
atoms of the same element have the same number of protons, they may have different numbers of neutrons.
These nuclei are called isotopes. See pages 738–739 on the features of atomic nuclei.
Modes of Radioactive Decay
Most of you are familiar with these modes, which are listed below:

alpha decay,
beta decay, and
gamma decay.
Detection of Radioactivity
Several radiation detection instruments, one of which is shown in this
lesson, are commercially available. On page 749, there is also a picture
of a handheld radiation detector that is commonly used by first-on-scene
responders to identify the sources of beta and gamma radiation.
Historical notes: Many of the terms associated with radioactivity, as you
will find out, come from the early pioneers in radiation physics such as
Marie Curie and Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. Roentgen discovered the
basic properties of X-rays, the properties of ionizing radiation, and the
possibility of using radiation in medicine (NDT Education Resource
Center, n.d.). Curie was a physicist, a chemist, and a pioneer in the study
of radiation who won the Nobel Prize in both physics and chemistry
(Bagley, 2019). Radioactivity was first discovered in 1896 by Henri
Becquerel (APS Physics, 2008). These discoveries, though, did not
come without a price. Scientists learned that radiation was not only a
source of energy and medicine, but it could also be a potential threat to
human health if not handled properly.
Geiger counter
(Godruma, n.d.).
Units of Radiation and Radiation Dose
The intensity of a radioisotope is called its activity, and the activity per unit mass is called its specific activity
(Meyer, 2020). Units of activity include curie and becquerel.
Units of a radiation dose are listed below:

radiation absorbed dose (rad),
roentgen equivalent man (rem),
gray, and
Background radiation is the combination of ionizing radiation from natural and artificial sources in and around
Earth. Every person is constantly exposed to cosmic radiation and other inescapable low-level ionizing
radiation emitted from the naturally occurring radioisotopes. See Figure 16.6 of the textbook on the sources of
background radiation.
Radiation sickness is the combination of health effects resulting from short- or long-term exposure to
radiation. See Table 16.3 of the textbook of acute radiation effects.
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Workplace regulations involving radiation exposure are discussed in Section 16.7
indicated above, OSHA regulates employee exposure to radiation in the workplace
Title for activities not
addressed by the NRC or DOE.
How Is Nuclear Power Generated?
Nuclear energy is generated similar to a fossil-fueled power plant. Both heat water to produce steam that will
drive the turbines to generate electricity. In a nuclear power plant, the heat is produced from the nuclear
reaction called fission. In nuclear fission, neutrons are fired at the nucleus of a radioactive element (uranium235). The U-235 nucleus absorbs the neutrons and splits into smaller atoms and more neutrons. Some of the
neutrons that are released then hit other atoms, which causes them to split and release more neutrons; this is
called a chain reaction (World Nuclear Association, n.d.-b) This process, which occurs in a nuclear reactor,
generates a significant amount of heat to create steam that drives the turbines to produce electricity. The
fragments that are produced by individual fission events are called fission products.
According to Meyer (2020), 435 nuclear power plants produce approximately 20% of electrical energy
worldwide; 95 of the nuclear power plants operate within the United States, and most are approaching their
projected operating lives of 40 years. During the next decade, 30 new plants are expected to be constructed,
the first of which, Watts Bar Unit 2 in southeastern Tennessee, came online in 2016.
According to the World Nuclear Association (n.d.-a), around 10% of the world’s electricity is generated by
about 440 nuclear power reactors. France gets approxmately three quarters of its electric power from nuclear
energy. Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine get more than half of their energy from nuclear, while Belgium,
Sweden, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Finland, and the Czech Republic get one-third or more. The United
States, United Kingdom, Spain, Romania, and Russia get approximately one-fifth of electricity from nuclear
energy. Japan used to get more than one quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy and is expected to
return to somewhere at that level in the near future.
Notable nuclear power incidents include Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania; Chernobyl in Russia; and the
recent Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.
Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middleton, PA
(Gough, 2020)
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Transporting Radioactive Materials
Stringent regulations apply to the transportation of radioactive material. The portion of these regulations most
immediately applicable to emergency responders is summarized below.

When shippers offer a radioactive material for transportation, it is first necessary to determine
whether the DOT applies an exemption that is applicable to the potential consignment.
The shippers determine the activity concentration and the total activity in the potential consignment
and compare these values with those published at 49 C.F.R. § 173.436.
The DOT regulations apply when the activity concentration and the total activity in the consignment
exceed published values.
Some radioisotopes are transported as hazardous substances within the meaning of the
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Section 6.2B). Examples of these are provided in Table 16.7, along with their reportable quantities (Meyer,
For details on shipping descriptions, labeling, and marking, read Section 16.10 of the textbook.
Responding to Radiation Incidents
When radiation sources are located nearby, government regulations require the authorized regulatory body to
warn individuals of their presence by posting signs. Emergency responders are also warned of the presence
of radiation sources when they encounter these signs.
According to Meyer (2020), at transportation mishap scenes, radiation sources are verified by the presence of
the following components:

the number 7 on the shipping paper,
the word Radioactive and the number 7 on yellow-and-white labels or the word Fissile and the
number 7 on the white-and-black labels that are affixed to packages, and
the word Radioactive and the number 7 on the yellow-and-white placards that are affixed on bulk
Once the presence of radioactive material has been verified, responders protect themselves by the
implementation of three basic principles: shielding, time, and distance.
Other Related Topics
Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)
Meyer (2020) defines a dirty bomb as any conventional explosive device charged with a hazardous material
that disperses into the environment as the explosive is detonated. This device is characteristic of the RDD.
When a radiological dirty bomb is initially activated, the immediate area of the incident becomes contaminated
with one or more radioisotopes. Following the dispersal of the radioactive material, the radioisotopes could
diffuse through the air where currents could carry them and, in time, cause the radioactive material to become
dispersed worldwide. It is for this reason that a radiological dirty bomb is also called a radiological dispersal
device. Note that the detonation of a radiological dispersal device could never produce the immediate mass
casualties or devastation that we associate with the detonation of nuclear weapons.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and radioactive gas that occurs naturally and can cause cancer
(EPA, n.d.-a). It is primarily an indoor air pollutant. Radon comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive
decay) of uranium. It is found in igneous rock and soil and, in some cases, from well water. As radon decays,
it releases radioactive byproducts that can be inhaled. According to the American Lung Association (n.d.),
exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking.
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Protecting homes from radon gas by using depressurizing wells
for buildings without the crawl space
(Scatena, n.d.)
Radon enters homes through cracks in walls, foundation floors, gaps in wall-to-wall joints, and other
openings. You can learn more about the EPA’s radon zone map by visiting the webpage “EPA Map of Radon
Zones Including State Radon Information and Contacts,” which has information on state radon and contacts
(EPA, n.d.-b). The radon that enters the home is referred to as residential radon and consists primarily of
radon-22 and radon-222, with half-lives of 54.5 seconds and 3.82 seconds, respectively (Meyer, 2020). The
only way to know your level of exposure is by testing. There are test kits that are available through the EPA
that you can use to check your homes for radon; access the test kits by visiting the webpage “Find a Radon
Test Kit or Measurement and Mitigation Professional.” If your house has high levels of radon, there is a lot of
information on mitigation measures that can be implemented.
American Lung Association. (n.d.). Radon. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/radon
APS Physics. (2008). This month in physics history: March 1, 1896: Henri Becquerel discovers radioactivity.
APS News, 17(3). https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200803/physicshistory.cfm
Bagley, M. (2019, June 26). Marie Curie: Facts & biography. Live Science.
Burke, R. (2003). Hazardous chemistry for emergency responders (2nd ed.). Lewis.
Godruma. (n.d.). Geiger counter. Device to meter radiation nuclear danger for safety or science. Vector.
[Illustration]. Dreamstime. https://www.dreamstime.com/geiger-counter-device-to-meter-radiationnuclear-danger-safety-science-vector-illustration-image177606757
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials
Meyer, E. (2020). Chemistry of hazardous materials (L. Mauerman, Ed.; 7th ed.).
NDT Education Resource Center. (n.d.). The discovery of x-rays. https://www.ndeed.org/EducationResources/HighSchool/Radiography/discoveryxrays.htm
Nn555. (n.d.). TNT dynamite [Illustration]. Dreamstime. https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stockimage-vector-illustration-comic-book-like-dynamite-sticks-image29801146
Scatena, F. (n.d.). How to protect our homes from radon gas with depressurizing wells for buildings without
the crawl space-concept illustration [Illustration]. Dreamstime. https://www.dreamstime.com/how-toprotect-our-homes-radon-gas-depressurizing-wells-buildings-crawl-space-concept-illustration-howimage158439725
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.-a). EPA map of radon zones including state radon information
and contacts. https://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-state-contactinformation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.-b). Radon. https://www.epa.gov/radon
World Nuclear Association. (n.d.-a). How does a nuclear reactor work? https://www.world-nuclear.org/nuclearessentials/how-does-a-nuclear-reactor-work.aspx
World Nuclear Association. (n.d.-b). Nuclear power in the world today. https://www.worldnuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx
Learning Activities (Nongraded)
Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.
In order to access the following resources, click the links below.
Review some of the key concepts from Chapter 15 by completing the Chapter 15 Practice Quiz (PDF version
of the Chapter 15 practice quiz). You can attempt as many times as you wish. Access the Chapter 15 quiz.
Review some of the key concepts from Chapter 16 by completing the Chapter 16 Practice Quiz (PDF version
of the Chapter 16 practice quiz). You can attempt as many times as you wish. Access the Chapter 16 quiz.
OSH 3308, Interactions of Hazardous Materials

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