UTS Was Evacuated After An Explosive Chemical Spill

The University of Technology Sydney was evacuated today, after an explosive chemical scare.

Three buildings at the Broadway campus were cleared after Picric acid — which is explosive when crystallised — was spilled.

Traffic was closed in both directions between Harris Street and Regent Street at Chippendale, causing delays.

Associate Professor Roger Read, an organic chemist at the University of New South Wales, said the chemical can be more dangerous than TNT.

“Picric acid is a highly energetic material, closely related to the better known high explosive TNT, trinitrotoluene,” he said.

“It can be more dangerous than TNT, primarily because it is more crystalline and sensitive to friction, by itself, and can form crystalline salts that are both friction and heat sensitive, more so than TNT.

“The material is usually stored and transported in wet form, with water. It becomes very dangerous in its dry state.”

Read said the material is highly-coloured, and is used in chemistry labs for analytical and diagnostic purposes.

“Safe removal will depend on the current state of the material.

“Its hazard will need to be neutralised by ensuring that the picric acid is stabilised through immersion in water.

“After it is removed from the site it will probably be destroyed by detonation under highly controlled conditions.”

Read is the current President of the NSW Branch of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.

According to Fairfax emergency services crews successfully removed the material after 12.30pm and took it off-site for disposal.

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