Officials at WIPP have admitted that the suspect barrels are packed with “organic kitty litter”. We were able to confirm that it was a wheat based cat litter.
Wheat based cat litters are made out of wheat bran and are readily available at most stores in the US. Wheat bran is also available in a pelleted or flake form as a livestock feed. In doing some additional research into the properties of wheat type cat litters or wheat bran products we found that there is a well known risk for these with spontaneous combustion or being ignited. Wheat bran is also used as a biomass fuel to burn in producing energy. Since wheat bran is a food it can obviously burn and contains a considerable amount of sugar.
Based on this Nancy F. ran a simple experiment. What happens to wheat bran under heat. Since heat is generated by either chemical reactions or ignition type events this was the factor we wanted to look at.
5.2 ounces of bentonite clay cat litter and 5.2 ounces of wheat cat litter were each put into a small container formed with heavy duty aluminum foil.
A fire using wood charcoal in a typical home fire pit that was about 400f (204c) was used to heat both samples.
At 10 minutes in, the clay litter was about 110f (43c) using a quick read thermometer. The wheat litter was 120f (48,8c) and was beginning to brown in spots. The wheat litter had also begun giving off oils causing the bits to stick to the thermometer and have an oily residue.
At 15 minutes in, the wheat litter began charring. Places within the sample began to burn and turn black but did not give off considerable smoke. The clay sample remained unchanged.
At 23 minutes in, the bottom layer of the wheat litter had charred and turned black.
At 25 minutes, about 1/3 of the litter sample had turned black. Half of the sample was charred or turning brown. A flame applied to the sample caused immediate browning.
At one hour about half of the sample was charred. The heat of the fire may have begun to wane by then. Taking about 1/4 teaspoon of the wheat litter and dropping it on the hot coals at first caused an immediate flare up and a few seconds of high flame. This was not caught on video and wasn’t identically repeatable. Further dropping of small amounts of the wheat litter on the hot coals caused it to immediately turn black, give off smoke, glow red and turn to ash.
This simple experiment shows that this wheat based cat litter readily burns under high heat or flame. Any reaction in the suspect waste barrels from Los Alamos that creates a high heat or fire would cause the kitty litter to combust thus adding to the event.
image credit | asplenia
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