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What’s the deal with the blast zone at Sunny Point?

Ben Steelman

Don Parker, the deputy to the commander at the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU), prefers the term “explosive safety zone.” It’s a nearly circular tract around the terminal – the Department of Defense’s key deep water port for handling ammunition and explosives on the Atlantic Coast and the largest terminal of its kind in the United States..

According to Parker, the safety zone covers some 8,600 acres on the Brunswick County side of the Cape Fear River, just north of Southport, and another 2,115 acres on the New Hanover County side, next to Kure Beach and Fort Fisher.

Property within the zone is owned by the U.S. government. Except for what Parker termed “benign” structures, such as water towers, all construction and human habitation is banned within its limits for reasons of safety. Large sand berms on the MOTSU grounds further guard against the possible effects of an accidental explosion.

Some people think the buffer zone is larger on the New Hanover side of the Cape Fear, but Parker says that’s not the case. Although subdivisions have crept closer to the zone in recent years, Parker said its boundaries have not changed since the terminal opened in 1955.

User-contributed question by:
Lois Carol Wheatley

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One Response to “ What’s the deal with the blast zone at Sunny Point?”

  1. On May 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm Dean L. McLeod wrote:

    Perhaps a fact or two might be helpful. The lack of a buffer zone at Port Chicago in 1944 had no relevance to deaths there. No civilians died, although there were homes and businesses within 1/2 mile of the ships that exploded. Of course that was with WWII grade munitions.

    Given the likely shipment of Nuclear weapons, a safety zone of 20-50 miles might be more appropriate. But, it surely makes sense to call a security zone a safety zone.

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