File under things I did not know until the past week: the largest refinery on the East Coast sits smack in the middle of South Philadelphia, and uses hydrofluoric acid as a catalyst.

It had a[nother] major fire last week. We almost had a disaster that would have easily bumped Union Carbide Bhopal off the top of the "worst industrial disaster" list.

Cool, cool.

@gamehawk

In the Bhopal accident, 600,000 people were exposed to the gas, in approximately 40 square kilometers, mostly south of the Union Carbide plant.

Using the Nukemap.com 1 PSI radius as a instrument to determine population living with a radius, and centering the detonation in the tank farms in eastern South Philadelphia, it takes 129 square kilometers to encompass the same 600000 people (nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/?&k)

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@seachanged I'm not sure what metrics they use, but the risk-management plan they filed with the federal/state/city governments has a worst-case exposure of 1.1 million, most within ten minutes.

And the whole shelter-in-place notification system wasn't activated for about twelve hours (plus it came on top of about a week of near-continuous emergency alerts so I dunno about Philly but South Jersey all would have gone "meh, another flood, that's not us).

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@gamehawk

Finishing up, that's 1/3 the population density, 1/10 the chemical release, and 1.5 times the toxicity, so all other things being equal, that's about 5% of a Bhopal, in terms of human lives lost.

There are many other important factors: weather, temporal dispersion of agent, medical care, emergency response, housing differences regarding shelter-in-place.

It wouldn't be as bad here, I think.

@seachanged I do wonder if that assumes "business hours so all the downtown buildings are fully occupied" which of course wasn't the case... though they certainly didn't prevent everyone from *coming* to work an hour or two after the initial fire. 🀷

@gamehawk

1.1 million in ten minutes? Wow! Sounds like an explosive release of the entire stock of HF in a gale-force wind blowing the optimum direction. I've done some more calcs, but I think I've become tiresome πŸ™‚

I wonder if I could lay my hands on that planning document. I'd love to see their models.

Petroleum refineries are not good neighbors, and in Richmond refinery there are windsocks everywhere: it's important to know which way the wind is blowing when you hear the sirens.

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