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Selected Technologies and Procedures Intended to Restrict Unauthorized Access to Explosives

Bronislav V. Matseevich*

Federal State-Owned Unitary Enterprise

Krasnoarmeisk Scientific Research Institute of Mechanization


I represent the Federal State-Owned Unitary Enterprise Red Army Scientific Research Institute of Mechanization [KNIIM], which works on issues connected with the production and use of civilian explosives, as well as questions pertaining to the dismantling and recycling of munitions.

As noted here earlier in another report, explosions and their sources, explosive substances, are the cheapest and most effective weapons of terrorists. The list of explosive substances now includes more than 2500 items, from the simplest mechanical mixtures of saltpeter with diesel fuel, oil, and so forth, to those for which the manufacturing cycle lasts tens or even hundreds of hours. Explosives today are the bread that feeds industry. Suffice it to say that it takes 500-800 grams of explosives to mine one ton of iron ore, 1000-1200 grams for one ton of coal, and so on. The United States currently produces and consumes more than 3 million tons of civilian explosives annually, more than the amount used during the entire course of World War II by all countries on both sides. In the Soviet Union, the figures reached 2.3 million tons, with the portion lost to theft amounting to less than one-millionth of the total production volume. Today, Russia uses more than 600,000 tons annually. This multimillion-ton genie has been let out of the bottle, and there is no way of putting it back. It would seem that getting hold of 0.01 or 0.001 percent of this amount would not present any difficulty. Nevertheless, even these percentages would amount to tons, and furthermore, terrorists’ manuals have long included methods for producing simple explosives themselves.

However, we must keep in mind that on the one hand, the simplest explo-

*

Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins.



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Selected Technologies and Procedures Intended to Restrict Unauthorized Access to Explosives Bronislav V. Matseevich * Federal State-Owned Unitary Enterprise Krasnoarmeisk Scientific Research Institute of Mechanization I represent the Federal State-Owned Unitary Enterprise Red Army Scientific Research Institute of Mechanization [KNIIM], which works on issues connected with the production and use of civilian explosives, as well as questions pertain- ing to the dismantling and recycling of munitions. As noted here earlier in another report, explosions and their sources, explo- sive substances, are the cheapest and most effective weapons of terrorists. The list of explosive substances now includes more than 2500 items, from the sim- plest mechanical mixtures of saltpeter with diesel fuel, oil, and so forth, to those for which the manufacturing cycle lasts tens or even hundreds of hours. Explo- sives today are the bread that feeds industry. Suffice it to say that it takes 500- 800 grams of explosives to mine one ton of iron ore, 1000-1200 grams for one ton of coal, and so on. The United States currently produces and consumes more than 3 million tons of civilian explosives annually, more than the amount used during the entire course of World War II by all countries on both sides. In the Soviet Union, the figures reached 2.3 million tons, with the portion lost to theft amounting to less than one-millionth of the total production volume. Today, Russia uses more than 600,000 tons annually. This multimillion-ton genie has been let out of the bottle, and there is no way of putting it back. It would seem that getting hold of 0.01 or 0.001 percent of this amount would not present any difficulty. Nevertheless, even these percentages would amount to tons, and fur- thermore, terrorists’ manuals have long included methods for producing simple explosives themselves. However, we must keep in mind that on the one hand, the simplest explo- * Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins. 1

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20 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM sives are less powerful. On the other hand, using them also requires a detonation intensifier, a so-called intermediate detonator or booster, in the mechanism of the explosive device. Such boosters must be made from powerful explosives such as TNT, hexogen, octogen, and others. This is necessary because the detonating fuse or blasting cap simply will not detonate the simplest explosives due to their low sensitivity. Therefore, terrorists use powerful explosives such as TNT, hexogen, and plastic explosives in order to achieve a compact and reliably functioning charge. Thus, the first measures that would help to restrict their uncontrolled spread could be taken right at the factory. I will cite several examples of such possibilities: 1. One such example in Russia is the system for placing serial numbers on cartridges and other products including civilian explosives such as TNT with saltpeter 6ZhV, 79/31, and others. The mining industry uses about a billion such cartridges annually in 32-, 36-, 45-, 60-, and 90-mm diameters. To limit the uncontrolled spread of these car- tridges and related products, each cartridge is assigned an individual number and each blaster must sign for the cartridges he receives, with the numbers being recorded. Thus, if a numbered cartridge is found anywhere, its path can be traced along the entire “producer-consumer” chain, from its manufacture at a plant to a specific mine, warehouse, shift, and individual blaster. All potential sources of losses can therefore be discovered and eliminated. To put this system into place, 32 special cartridge numbering and packing lines with a capacity of 200 cartridges per minute each were designed, manufac- tured, and put into operation. All Russian plants producing civilian explosives are equipped with such lines. This is an expensive undertaking, since it entails major costs, detailed accounting, and so forth. But with the introduction of this system in the 1980s, losses and thefts of explosives were reduced to a level of 10-6 of total output. Serial numbers are also placed on explosive blocks, boosters, et cetera. 2. A nationwide audit is also conducted regularly regarding the production and consumption of civilian explosives and associated detonating mechanisms. The audit begins with comparing orders from customer firms with inventory logs at the producing plants regarding shipments and utilization of these explosives. Without a special permit issued on the basis of such an audit, these sub- stances cannot be shipped to customers, stored, or used. The system stipulates strict accountability on the part of producers and consumers. Those providing incorrect information can be held legally responsible, and violations of these rules will lead to loss of licensure by consumers and producers alike. 3. One effective means of limiting the use of powerful explosives in mining is the shift to ammonia nitrate emulsion civilian explosives, which are manufac- tured at the place of use. This has become a basic method worldwide over the

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21 HIGH IMPACT TERRORISM past decade and should remain so in coming years. Reducing shipment distances by tens of times and shifting to less sensitive explosives significantly limit the base for terrorism. For this purpose, the majority of mining enterprises use do- mestic- and foreign-designed stationary units for manufacturing explosives. For this same purpose, Russia also manufactures four types of mixer-loader vehicles, one of which is the so-called factory on wheels, a vehicle in which all basic explosive manufacturing operations are carried out at the blast site during the charge loading process. 4. We attach extraordinary importance to current efforts to add markers or taggants to detect various types of plastic explosives, which are very difficult to detect during shipment inspections. 5. For shipments in dangerous regions, a vehicle has been designed with armored sides to protect against gunfire. The vehicle also has fire-extinguishing features. 6. At present, special attention is being devoted in Russia to matters regard- ing the circulation of military explosives obtained during the dismantling of decommissioned and obsolete munitions. To this end, a number of efforts have been and continue to be carried out in the Russian Federation based on the fundamental principle that the extraction of high-energy materials from muni- tions and their reprocessing into civilian explosives must be conducted at special enterprises using special equipment. In this process, powerful military explo- sives are turned into less sensitive materials by being mixed with additives. For this purpose, a number of industrial plants and arsenals of the Ministry of Defense have been outfitted with special equipment based on methods devel- oped by Russian specialists. One of these methods is the fundamentally new method of washing TNT-containing explosives with hot organic liquids, for ex- ample, paraffin. This causes a significant “phlegmatization” of the resulting re- cycled explosives, increases the safety of the recycling process, and reduces the sensitivity of the recycled substances. The safety and reliability of the process on the whole has made it possible to create a number of mobile self-powered units mounted in large shipping containers. An example of such a unit is the modular-container complex for extracting TNT from 76–152-mm artillery shells and recovering TNT fragments at muni- tions storage facilities. The module consists of three or four 20-foot shipping containers, which can be moved by any means of transport and assembled in the course of 48 working hours. It runs on electricity either by connecting to the local power system or on a 100-kW diesel generator. The TNT output of the complex is 120 kg per hour. Another example is the modular-container complex for dismantling land mines. It is mounted in three standard 20-foot 1SS or UUK-20 containers. Its TNT output is 240 kg per hour, and from 12 to 20 mines can be processed at once. It can be set up in 40 hours. The existence of such equipment and its deployment at munitions storage

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22 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM sites facilitate the additional establishment not only of production controls, but also of controls on the part of the army. Stationary units have also been developed and put into use for processing munitions with powerful mixed smeltable explosives. One example is a complex for dismantling large munitions, for example, aerial bombs weighing from 250 kg to 9 tons each. The complex has attained product output of up to 500 kg per hour. For this same reason, another complex has been built to dismantle large munitions filled with mixed explosives (for example, torpedo warheads, marine mines, missiles, depth charges, etc.). The recycling process in all these examples is directly tied to the powerful desensitization of these explosives; that is, it requires 400 grams to 1 kg of powerful boosters to detonate them. Therefore, these substances become ill suit- ed for use in terrorist acts. To involve specialists and coordinate work in this field, five conferences have been held in the past eight years. Three of the conferences were internation- al, and all of them had representatives from more than 100 organizations. 7. The comprehensive work carried out by KNIIM and a number of Russian organizations has shown the possibility of extracting nonfusible explosives from munitions by the method of hydrocutting and washing with a high-pressure stream of water. Experiments have been done on carrying out this process at pressures ranging from 100 to several thousand atmospheres. On the whole, the setup consists of a pumping unit, the washing unit itself, and a water purification system. We have drawn some important conclusions regarding the safety of this process. They indicate that there exists a rather broad range of technological parameters for this process, within which hydrocutting and hydrowashing are advantageous for practically all types of powerful high explosives. This also makes possible the radical application of this process in various modified forms for the destruction of explosive packages and various terrorist-produced items in mobile units. On the whole, we feel that applying various methods and procedures for limiting the uncontrolled spread of powerful explosives by various means— design related, substance compounding related, organizational, technological, and legislative—is an effective though far from comprehensive way of resolving the common problem. Therefore, the domestic policy of high-tech countries must support firms that are working to ensure accountability regarding explosives and related products, organizing product markings that would identify the manufac- turer, mothballing explosive capacities in mine blasting zones, and creating less sensitive explosive substances and rapid, lightweight detectors for both explo- sives and narcotics. Other more reliable methods remain to be created.