"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Latest Update on the Fire Approaching Los Alamos Nuclear Lab

Firefighters are starting backfires along the western perimeter of the Lab which will remove the fuel the fires need to keep burning in the laboratory area.  They are hoping for a wind shift today away from the Lab and the town of Los Alamos as winds did die down some over night but then picked up again this morning.  The response in New Mexico to this fire burning out of control shows they are completely on top of the situation and doing everything possible to protect the Nuclear Lab: 

Pre-Burns to Occur on LANL Western Boundary
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico June 29, 2011 – Fire crews on Wednesday morning will begin a series of targeted, preventative burns along the western edge of Los Alamos National Laboratory in an effort to further remove available fuels from the Las Conchas Fire. Observers may notice increased smoke coming from the LANL border. At this time there is no wildfire on Laboratory property. Laboratory facilities will be closed for all activities and nonessential employees are directed to remain off site. Personnel are considered nonessential unless they have received specific instructions from their supervisors to report to the Laboratory. Employees should check local news sources, Los Alamos County Emergency Radio on AM 1610, the LANL Update Hotline (505-667-6622) and the LANL web page (http://www.lanl.gov/) for updates.The Laboratory has posted a number of pictures to its Flickr photo site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/losalamosnatlab/ A Joint Information Center has been established at the Regional Development Corporation, 2209 Miguel Chavez Rd. in Santa Fe


Scientists monitor air as fire burns near NM lab
By P. SOLOMON BANDA and SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press © 2011 The Associated Press 
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — As crews fight to keep a New Mexico wildfire from reaching the nation's premier nuclear-weapons laboratory and the surrounding community, scientists are busy sampling the air for chemicals and radiological materials. 
Their effort includes dozens of fixed-air monitors on the ground, as well as a "flying laboratory" dispatched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The special twin-engine plane is outfitted with sensors that can collect detailed samples. 
Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico requested the agency's help early on in the monitoring effort near the Los Alamos National Laboratory. EPA officials said the flying lab was set to make its initial data-collection fight Wednesday, and state and federal officials have vowed to make findings from all the monitoring efforts public. 
"I know people are concerned about what's in the smoke," Udall said. He noted that the state, the Los Alamos lab and the EPA were all looking closely at air quality "so we can assure the public" there will be multiple layers of oversight. 
The blaze had grown to more than 108 square miles by Wednesday morning, but firefighters managed to hold the line along the nuclear lab's southern boundary. 
On its western edge, firefighters began targeted burns to rob fuel from the fire. Lab officials warned that people might see more smoke coming from the lab border, but they said there was no fire burning on the site as of mid-Wednesday. 
Residents downwind have expressed concern about the potential of a radioactive smoke plume if the flames reach thousands of barrels of waste stored in above-ground tents at the lab. 
Top lab officials and fire managers say there have been no releases of toxins. They say they're confident the flames won't reach key buildings or areas where radioactive waste is stored. As a last resort, foam could be sprayed on the barrels containing items that might have been contaminated through contact with radioactive materials to ensure they aren't damaged by fire, they said. 
The site's manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration said he evaluated the precautions and felt comfortable. The agency oversees the lab for the Department of Energy.
"I have 170 people who validate their measures," Kevin Smith said. "They're in steel drums, on a concrete floor." 
Despite the assurances, some residents remained concerned for the safety of their families and nearby communities. 
"If it gets to this contamination, it's over — not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe and all of us in between," said Mai Ting, a resident who lives in the valley below the desert mesas that are home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. 
Chris Valvarde, a resident of the Santa Clara Pueblo about 10 miles north of Los Alamos, questioned officials at a briefing Tuesday evening, asking whether they had evacuation plans for his community. Los Alamos, a town of 11,000, already sits empty after its residents were evacuated ahead of the blaze, which started Sunday. 
The wildfire has already sparked a spot fire at the lab. The fire Monday was quickly contained, and lab officials said no contamination was released. 
Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic waste — gloves, toolboxes, tools — and other items that may have been contaminated. An anti-nuclear group had estimated there could be up to 30,000 55-gallon drums stored at a site known as Area G, but lab spokeswoman Heather Clark said Wednesday there are 10,000 drums stored there under fire-retardant tents. 
Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three high inside the tents. 
Area G holds drums of cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away for storage in weekly shipments, according to lab officials. 
Excerpt:  Read more:  Houston Chronicle

No comments: