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Investigators Determine Reactant in West, Texas Explosion

Last month’s fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, a small town located north of Waco killed 14 people, injured dozens of others, demolished many homes and businesses.

Yesterday, officials announced ammonium nitrate to be the substance behind the blast. Ammonium nitrate is a solid that is used in fertilizer because of its rich nitrogen content. Plants can easily absorb nitrogen ions as a nutrient.

However, ammonium nitrate is also a common oxidizing agent, a key component in creating explosives. While it is not incredibly volatile on its own, when ammonium nitrate comes into contact with certain materials it can explode.

While the exact cause of the explosion remains a mystery, investigators have begun examining its 90-foot-wide crater and remain hopeful that more information into the nature of this tragedy will emerge.