Nuclear weapons lab closes due to fire danger
LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 28 (Reuters) – New Mexico fire managers scrambled on Tuesday to reinforce crews battling a third day against an out-of-control blaze at the edge of one of the nation’s top nuclear weapons production centers.
The fire’s leading edge burned to within a few miles (kilometres) of a dump site where some 20,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated waste is stored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, fire officials said.
Officials for the government-run lab said the stored waste is considered low-level radioactive material and remains a safe distance from the fire in an area cleared of trees and other vegetation.
Carl Beard, director of operations for the lab, said there has been no release of radioactive or hazardous materials into the environment and there was no immediate threat to public safety, “even in these extreme conditions.”
The fire, believed to have been ignited Sunday by a fallen power line, has consumed nearly 61,000 acres (24,580 hectares) of thick, pine woodlands in the Santa Fe National Forest, which surrounds the lab complex and adjacent town of Los Alamos on three sides.
Tucker said he feared the so-called Las Conchas Fire, whipped by high, rapidly shifting winds, could soon double or triple in size. “I seriously believe it could go to 100,000 acres (40,470 hectares),” he said at a news briefing. “We have fire all around the lab. It’s a road away.” source – Reuters