An Exploration Of The Pepcon Disaster And Its Aftermath
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An Exploration of the PEPCON Disaster And Its Aftermath What began as normal repair work at the Pacific Engineering and Production Company of Nevada (PEPCON) in May of 1988, resulted in devastation. PEPCON was one of two manufacturing facilities of Ammonium Perchlorate (AP), located in Clark County, NV, approximately 10 miles southeast of downtown Las Vegas (Lilley, 2012). AP is an oxidizer that when combined with aluminum makes the base for solid-state rocket fuel (Dunbar, 2006). Due to the recent Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, all space exploration by NASA was halted, and a stockpile of around 4,000 tons of AP built up and was stored onsite (Lilley, 2012). The disaster was caused by repair work done after high winds damaged the…show more content… 4). Each of these materials is makes AP act as a class-A explosive as explained in Appendix B. Also, within many buildings at the PEPCON facility, dust control was either minimal or nonexistent, while cleaning was only performed before safety inspections (Lambert & Alvares, 2003, p.7). This led to massive AP buildups on all flat surfaces which it is assumed exasperated the situation further once the fire started (Lambert & Alvares, 2003, p.7). The incredibly risky storage practices of this powerful oxidizer made PEPCON a disaster waiting to happen.
The Facility And Its Safety Features The PEPCON facility was broken up into multiple buildings, the most important of which to this incident is the batch-drying building located in the southwest portion of the facility (map of PEPCON is attached as Appendix A) (Routley, n.d., p. 22). The batch dryer was used to blend and dry AP to prepare it for final packing, however, this facility was not suitable for this work due to its construction. The building was constructed of combustible fiberglass with steel supports (Routley, n.d., p.8). AP residue built up on the fiberglass and accelerated the fire out of control once it started (Routley, n.d., p.8). This risk was known by PEPCON as there had been previous fires in this building, however nothing was done to deter future fires (Case