Photograph of acetone peroxide crystals. By Spatula Tzar~commonswiki

Triacetone Triperoxide – Mother of Satan

Brussels bombings of 22nd March 2016 has again brought forth the nightmare of detecting certain chemicals used in terrorist attacks. Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) was also involved in November Paris attack and the infamous shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to detonate his shoe bomb on American Airlines Flight 63 on 22nd December 2001.

Photograph of acetone peroxide crystals. By Spatula Tzar~commonswiki
Photograph of acetone peroxide crystals. By Spatula Tzar~commonswiki

Richard Wolffenstein, a German chemist, in 1895, discovered and patented acetone peroxide by reacting acetone and hydrogen peroxide. Comparatively easy to produce makes triacetone triperoxide a weapon of choice to terrorists with added advantage of TATP being much harder/impossible to be detected by security scanning methods as it contains no nitrogen at all.  With chemicals easily available, in commercial stores, mixing of concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide, acetone and sulphuric acid under certain temperature can produce triacetone triperoxide. Though easy to say how to make, this substance is extremely dangerous while in production, storage and may be liable to explosion if subjected to friction, shock or heat.  Other names of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) is Peroxyacetone and “Mother of Satan” and its detonation velocity is 3.29 miles per second.

Security think tanks and other experts are brainstorming to improvise the current security systems to include detection of inorganic, non-nitrogenous compounds, TATP and other so called transparent, non-detectable, explosives.

When we come to logistics and supply chain the security of cargo is very important aspect as to close all loops where an unauthorized person can gain access to the goods.

Security measures in Transport Regulations

Chapter 1.4 of UN Model Regulations and IMDG Code 37th Amendment lays down the basic mandatory requirement of security in transport. For Sea transport the security provisions are in accordance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.  Section 1.4.3 of IMDG Code further enhances the requirement of security to cargo which has higher potential for misuse in a terrorist event or which may, as a result, produce serious consequences such as mass casualties, mass destruction or, particularly for Class 7 Radioactive material, mass socio-economic disruption.

An indicative list of high consequences dangerous goods is:

Class 1,        Division 1.1 explosives

Class 1,        Division 1.2 explosives

Class 1,        Division 1.3 compatibility group C explosives

Class 1,        Division 1.4 UN Nos. 0104, 0237, 0255, 0267, 0289, 0361, 0365, 0366, 0440, 0441, 0455, 0456 and 0500

Class 1,         1.5 explosives

Class 2.1      Flammable gases in quantities greater than 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon or a portable tank

Class 2.3      Toxic gases

Class 3         Flammable liquids of packing groups I and II in quantities greater than 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon or a portable tank

Class 3         Desensitized liquid explosives

Class 4.1      Desensitized solid explosives

Class 4.2      Goods of packing group I in quantities greater than 3000 kg or 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon, a portable tank or a bulk container

Class 4.3      Goods of packing group I in quantities greater than 3000 kg or 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon, a portable tank or a bulk container

Class 5.1      Oxidizing liquids of packing group I in quantities greater than 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon or a portable tank

Class 5.1      Perchlorates, ammonium nitrate, ammonium nitrate fertilizers and ammonium nitrate emulsions or suspensions or gels in quantities greater than 3000 kg or 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon, a portable tank or a bulk container

Class 6.1      Toxic substances of packing group I

Class 6.2      Infectious substances of category A (UN Nos. 2814 and 2900)

Class 7         Radioactive materials with an activity equal to or greater than a transport security threshold of 3000 A2 per single package and those radionuclides where the transport security threshold is given in table 1.4.2 of IMDG Code

Class 8         Corrosive substances of packing group I in quantities greater than 3000 kg or 3000 ℓ in a road tank vehicle, a railway tank wagon, a portable tank or a bulk container.

Shippers and others involved in transporting high consequence dangerous goods should adopt, implement and comply with security plan which contains, together with existing security measures, below elements:

  1. specific allocation of responsibilities for security to competent and qualified persons with appropriate authority to carry out their responsibilities;
  2. records of dangerous goods or types of dangerous goods transported;
  3. review of current operations and assessment of vulnerabilities, including intermodal transfer, temporary transit storage, handling and distribution, as appropriate;
  4. clear statements of measures, including training, policies (including response to higher threat conditions, new employee/employment verification, etc.), operating practices (e.g. choice/use of routes where known, access to dangerous goods in temporary storage, proximity to vulnerable infrastructure, etc.), equipment and resources that are to be used to reduce security risks;
  5. effective and up-to-date procedures for reporting and dealing with security threats, breaches of security or security-related incidents;
  6. procedures for the evaluation and testing of security plans and procedures for periodic review and update of the plans;
  7. measures to ensure the security of transport information contained in the plan; and
  8. measures to ensure that the distribution of transport information is limited as far as possible.