Nevada lawmakers have asked the Interior Department to allow Kerr-McGee Corp. to begin storing a rocket fuel oxidizer on federal land north of Las Vegas.

The move is a last-ditch effort to persuade the company to select Nevada as the site for a new plant to expand its production of ammonium perchlorate, a critical fuel oxidizer for military missiles and space shuttles.Kerr-McGee is also considering sites near Lake Havasu, Ariz., Camden, Ark. and Cedar City, where PEPCON is moving.

Sen. Harry Reid said Tuesday he hoped the move would keep Kerr-McGee's new facility in the Las Vegas area. The company currently operates an ammonium perchlorate plant in Henderson, southeast of Las Vegas.

Federal agencies have asked Kerr-McGee to double its production of the oxidizer following a May 4 explosion at the PEPCON plant in Henderson. PEPCON was the only other plant in the United States producing the ammonium perchlorate.

The explosion killed two people, injured more than 320 and caused $73 million in property damage.

Kerr-McGee's Henderson plant is currently producing at full capacity.

Nevada Congressman Jim Bilbray had introduced legislation two weeks ago which would have allowed the federal government to sell 27,000 acres of land to Clark County for an industrial park. Kerr-McGee would then locate on 2,500 acres of that land.

The bill was introduced late in the session and congressional committees balked at rushing it through without normal environmental reviews.

Kerr-McGee spokeswoman Anita Bridges said the company still favors the site northeast of Las Vegas because of its proximity to the company's Henderson plant, but wants to pick a new site by November.

Nevada lawmakers hope to gain Congressional approval of the land sale early next year, and see the plan to store the oxidizer on federal land as an interim move to keep the expanded facilities in southern Nevada.