How Many Drums of Explosives Were There?

We’re getting a lot of input from military personnel and others on the Al Qaqaa story. We’re sifting through it, asking for more information, and will be posting updates throughout the day. In the meantime, Dafydd ab Hugh does some calculating and concludes that the famous KSTP photos are meaningless:

The amount of high explosive that the IAEA claimed to be missing is:
156 tons RDX (141.5 metric tons) – density 1.82 g/cc
215 tons HMX (195.0 metric tons) – density 1.91 g/cc
6.4 tons PETN (5.8 metric tons) – density 1.76 g/cc
This works out to about 173 million cubic centimeters, which is slightly more than 39,000 (dryweight) gallons. Assuming it was packed as tight as tight could be into 55-gallon drums, that would work out to about 714 drums.
…Did you see over seven hundred 55-gallon drums in any of those pictures, taken on April 18th, 2003 and displayed on the KSTP Website? In the shots I saw, I counted somewhat less than seventy… or less than one tenth the amount that should have been there. And even that assumes that every, last drum in that photo contains RDX, HMX, or PETN, while none contain conventional explosives, lyme, cauliflower, or vacuum-cleaner dust.
This is meaningless. Even if what they saw was high explosive, it’s clearly only a remnant of what should have been there. The rest, one can only presume, was removed before the invasion — which means removed on orders of Saddam Hussein.

UPDATE: Another reader emails:

As a retired Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer I have some problems with the Channel 5 story. It appears to me that they are in a bunker filled with blasting agents (slower detonation rates for moving rock, see link below on detonation rates) . First we see boosters, (they would commonly be inserted into a bag of ANFO(ammonium nitrate fuel oil) or nitro starch for blasting. Then we see what is described as dynamite but is more likely TNT or wrapped nitro starch (see GI story below) and lastly those big cardboard barrels which appear to be a white powder. Note the number beside the 1.1D placard on the barrel, it says 239. Now 239 may very well be the U. N. number system for ammunition and explosives (see first link below). The U. S. does not utilize the U. N. system nor does the former USSR or its satellites. When I was in Bosnia we put the Bosnians on the UN system to get some organization established for safety purposes. Please note the first site below from Australia and we can see they are most probably on the UN system: (239 NITROSTARCH, dry or wetted with less than 20% water, by mass).
Common sense to me would be that HMX, one of the most powerful and expensive explosives WOULD NOT BE PACKAGED IN CARDBOARD BARRELS! Furthermore one of the barrels is already open as we see. The two “experts” certainly did not add ANYTHING to this story.

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