Monday, March 27, 2023

New Explosive with New Precursor Chemicals

A short article on talks about an ‘easy synthesis’ of a powerful new explosive, DTAT-K, that could replace current lead azide explosives. It references a geekier article on ACS Cent. Sci. 2023 which provides more details about the process for those interested in the detail. But for purposes of this discussion two things stand out. The chemical synthesis (manufacturing) process is relatively straightforward and it uses a commercially available chemical as the precursor. This means that there are potential impacts to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations.

A quick refresher. The CFATS regulations established a list of DHS chemicals of interest (COI) that trigger initial Top Screen reporting requirements for facilities. Facilities that have minimum amount of any of the 300+ listed chemicals on site have to report that information to CISA and then CISA will determine if they are to be covered under the CFATS program.

Crafters of the COI list relied on various regulatory lists of chemicals that may be of use in a terrorist attack, either at the facility where the chemical is held, or off-site as a weapon or in the manufacture of improvised chemical or explosive weapons. For that off-site use the COI lists all major commercial explosives. If that list were to be compiled anew today, it would probably include DTAT-K, and the commercially available precursor would probably be included as well.

CISA is currently working on an update for that regulation. It will be interesting to see if they include updates to the COI list, adding new chemicals like DTAT-K and its precursors.

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