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Monday, June 27, 2011

Fire Within 1 Mile of Los Alamos (NM) Nuclear Lab

Fire! Los Alamos Laboratories Nuke Center

June 27, 2011 at 10:37 am (PT)
Fire has burned 6 miles, gas lines threatened.  

From Ken, Modern Survival Blog:

A wildfire which began to rage Sunday morning in northern New Mexico has now spread to within striking distance of a very large nuclear weapons facility, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which occupies 36 square miles of land located just 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe.
From the Los Alamos National Laboratories website:
6/27/2011 8:20 – Los Alamos National Laboratory emergency officials are closely watching wind directions this morning as the Las Conchas fire continues to burn southwest of the Lab… Observation aircraft are currently conducting aerial surveys to gauge the fire’s growth and current size. Overnight, as a precaution, the Lab cut natural gas to technical areas in LANL’s remote southwest area. All hazardous and radioactive materials remain accounted for and are appropriately protected, as are key Lab facilities such as its proton accelerator and supercomputing centers.

The laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world with approximately 9,000 direct employees. Los Alamos is one of two laboratories in the United States where classified work towards the design of nuclear weapons is undertaken.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory currently:
  • Conducts research, design, and development of nuclear weapons.
  • Provides assessments and certification of stockpiled weapons.
  • Maintains production capabilities for limited quantities of plutonium pits for delivery to the stockpile.
  • Maintains capabilities for R&D and fabrication of enriched uranium, depleted uranium, and other uranium isotope mixtures for hydrotests and joint test assemblies and fabrication of components for secondary assemblies.
  • Manufactures nuclear weapon detonators for the stockpile.
  • Conducts tritium R&D.
  • Conducts hydrodynamic testing.
  • Conducts high explosives R&D.
  • Conducts environmental testing.
  • Maintains Category I/II quantities of SNM.
  • Designs and tests advanced technology concepts.
In 2003 the Department of Energy opened the management contract of Los Alamos up for bid. In June of 2006 management of the Lab was taken over by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a for-profit corporation of partners that include the University of California, Bechtel Corporation, Washington Group International, and BWX Technologies.

As the fire grew dramatically in size, the Los Alamos nuclear laboritory was shut down and evacuated:
The lab uses plutonium to craft atomic bomb cores. InciWeb reported that "all radioactive material is appropriately accounted for and protected."
Los Alamos National Security employs about 9,000 workers at the lab, backed up by about 650 contractors and 120 Energy Department employees.
LosAlamosNatLab LosAlamosNatLab
Fire update. Lab closed Mon. Las Conchas fire not on LANL property as of 8 pm Mtn.. All radioactive material accounted for and protected.
LosAlamosNatLab LosAlamosNatLab
#NMfire update: As a precaution, LANL overnight cut natural gas to Lab's remote technical areas in southwest portion of property.
This picture shows the scene as the fire raged through the night:
The fire forced the evacuation of Bandelier National Monument and the closure of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, while Los Alamos and White Rock are under voluntary evacuation orders. There were reports that the fire had eased a little on Monday, but smoke still hung ominously in the sky:
VallesCaldera VallesCaldera
The is Preserve is CLOSED and will remain closed until current wildfire activity conditions improve. Fire information
Governor Susana Martinez, who visited the area on Sunday, has called out the National Guard to help deal with the blaze:
Local reporter Gadi Schwartz took this picture near the Los Alamos National Laboratory:
GadiRoget GadiRoget
This is the fire line above #LANL from middle school #nmfire #kob4
radiodewey radiodewey
On way to Sunport sky very eerie dark sky to south Bosque Fire down by Belen to North big plume from fire near Los Alamos
The Los Conchas fire started up at around 1 p.m. MT on private land Sunday afternoon and quickly swelled. Some power lines are down, officials said.
EmilyMedvec EmilyMedvec
#NMFire 3500 ac reached #Frijoles Canyon within #Bandelier Natl Monumnt voluntary evacuations for #WhiteRock #LosAlamos Pls RT

Professional photographer Michael P Young has been tweeting dramatic photographs of the fire:

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