Chlorine transportation: the real threat

Chlorine transportation: the real threat

Organisation: RTSinfo (Switzerland)

Publication Date: 04/13/2016


Size of team/newsroom:large


Two important chemical plants, situated in Valais, need chlorine for their daily production. They used to produce it on site, but have decided to externalize this production to optimize their profits. Chlorine is now imported from France, by rail. It is transported from Geneva to Viège, through densely populated areas. An accident of one of these trains could have devastating effects, as chlorine can be lethal on a large scale. It's level of toxicity means it can kill within a perimeter of several hundred meters. Because of this, the building of houses along the railway line has been blocked. The potential human cost of an accident is indeed considerable. As secure as Swiss railways might seem, there have been several accidents during the past two years. Fortunately, none of these involved the transport of chlorine. Credit for the project: Valentin Tombez, Frédéric Vergez

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Many things have been reported on this issue: blocking of home construction, chlorine toxicicity, decision of chemical manufacturers to externalize the production. One thing, however, hasn't been explained is the number of potential deaths and how many people could be affected by such an accident. Using public data, number of inhabitants per hectare and extensive research on the true lethality of chlorine and its spread in the air, we were able to formulate the worst-case scenario, as well as identify the potential areas affected by a disaster. By following the route taken by the train, we were able to show very precisely what could happen by measuring the effective threat of transporting chlorine that could be avoided, at a cost of 70 million Swiss francs (a number we were able to obtain by confronting manufacturers with the numbers of a potential disaster that we had calculated). This gives the reader the opportunity to form his own opinion when balancing heavy costs/minimal risks (also explained in the story) of a huge disaster.

Technologies used for this project:

​**Data processing:** - Clojure - Incanter - QGis (pre-viz) - Excel(!) - Google Maps API (geocoding) **Rendering:** - Clojure for backend and REST services - Postgresql + PostGIS - ClojureScript + React - CartoDB + Leaflet
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