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A Working Man's Analysis of Incidents and Accidents with Explosives at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1946-1997

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Conference paper

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Contemporary knowledge of a significant incident or accident involving energetic material improves the safety environment. A large fraction of the work force at Los Alamos from the time period when large amounts of experimental work involving explosives was done have retired and there has been a loss of the contemporary knowledge. While the amount of experimental work has decreased there is still significant experimental and production work being performed. At the inception of the Laboratory, hectic and intense work was the norm during the development of the atomic bombs. After the war the development of other weapons for the Cold War again contributed to an intense work environment. Formal Standard Operating Procedures SOPs were not required at that time. However, the occurrence of six fatalities in 1959 during the development of a new high-energy plastic bonded explosive 94 HMX forced the introduction SOPs. After an accident at the Department of Energy DOE plant at Amarillo, Texas in 1977, the DOE promulgated the Department wide DOE Explosives Safety Manual. Table I outlines the history of the introduction of SOPs and the DOE Explosives Safety Manual. Many of the rules and guidelines presented in these documents were developed and introduced as the result of an incident or accident. However, many of the current staff are not familiar with the background of the development. To preserve as much of this knowledge as possible, we have collected documentation on incidents and accidents involving energetic materials at Los Alamos.

Subject Categories:

  • Safety Engineering
  • Ammunition and Explosives
  • Physical Chemistry

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