Out west on Highway 30 there is a big Dyno Nobel factory in the middle of nowhere. We all know how Nobel made his money. Is the plant located there because what they're making is too dangerous for the city?—What's in There?
You have to hand it to Alfred Nobel—he pulled off one of the greatest PR coups in history.
Nobel made his fortune in the arms trade, profiting from the 19th century's many bloody conflicts, and his advances in the field of high explosives (notably, inventing dynamite) made existing weapons even more deadly.
But then, essentially with his dying breath, he endowed the Nobel Prizes, and today his name is synonymous with the highest achievements of the human species. So thanks for reminding us he was actually a big jerk. Suck it, Alfred Nobel!
The company that bears Nobel's name today still makes explosives, but not at the facility you're talking about. That plant, in Deer Island, makes agricultural chemicals, most notably ammonium nitrate. AN is a very cheap and efficient way of getting nitrogen (what plants crave!) into the soil.
But don't get too comfortable—even though it's made to be a fertilizer and not an explosive, AN can still do a pretty good job of exploding in a pinch.
In 1947, an AN-laden ship in Texas City, Texas, caught fire and eventually exploded, damaging more than 1,000 buildings. The explosion set fire to another ship, also loaded with AN. That ship then burned for 16 hours, because most of the area's firefighters had already been killed in the first explosion. (The second ship eventually exploded, too.)
Half the world's food supply depends on ammonia-based fertilizers, so we can't really hate on the whole category just because they're dangerous. That said, this particular fertilizer plant was fined $250,000 last summer for (feloniously!) discharging 6.6 tons of ammonia into the atmosphere.
That discharge actually happened in 2015, and Dyno Nobel says it has since put in safeguards that will prevent any such mishaps in the future. So everybody's happy…right?
Save the date! On Saturday, Sept. 7, Dr. Know celebrates 10 years with "That's Edutainment!" a multimedia extravaganza at the Alberta Rose Theatre. Doors at 7, show at 8. Tickets go on sale July 10.