Hazmat Safety Advisory: Nurse Tank Launched 300 Feet

Posted on 2/26/2024 by Nick Waldron

A new US DOT Safety Advisory warns hazardous materials stakeholders about potential "catastrophic failure" of a hazmat packaging known as nurse tanks. The new advisory concerns tanks that were manufactured by one company, at one plant, and which have been in service for more than 10 years. Full details about the tanks subject the alert are in the advisory, linked below. 

PHMSA, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), issued the Safety Advisory on February 20, following an incident involving failure of a nurse tank containing anhydrous ammonia: 

On August 23, 2023, a 2009 nurse tank containing anhydrous ammonia experienced a catastrophic failure in a farm co-op lot, resulting in the release of all product. The failure caused the tank shell to “rocket” over 300 feet from its original location.

Safety Advisory: Possible Catastrophic Failure of Nurse Tanks and Recommendation for Periodic Testing, 2/20/24.

The Agencies strongly recommend that owners of these nurse tanks conduct voluntary visual, thickness, and pressure tests at least once every five years. If pressure tests cannot be performed, radiographic or ultrasonic testing is recommended.

Test Results After the Tank Failure

After the event described above, the owner of the tank that failed hired a third-party testing company. Eight nurse tanks manufactured between 2008 and 2012 were examined. Radiographic testing showed that seven nurse tanks had extreme stress corrosion cracking (SCC), porosity, and inclusions/voids in the welds where the heads and shells of the nurse tanks were joined. Only the 2012 tank passed.

Later, 142 more tanks manufactured between 2007 and 2012 were tested. 100 of 142 failed, and all the 2012 tanks passed.

See more details in the full Safety Advisory Notice here.

What is a Nurse Tank?

A “nurse tank” is a cargo tank and hazmat package typically used to transport anhydrous ammonia. Nurse tanks are not required to undergo periodic inspection if legible American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) identification plates are attached and other requirements in the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) are met.

See 49 CFR 173.315(m).

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Tags: DOT, FMCSA, hazmat, hazmat shipping, PHMSA

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