By Zelie Pollon
Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:53pm EDT
SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) – Firefighters inside a nuclear weapons complex in New Mexico scrambled on Thursday to clear brush near barrels of plutonium-contaminated waste stored just a few miles from a monster blaze roaring through surrounding forests.
The so-called Las Conchas Fire has charred nearly 93,000 acres of thick pine woodlands on the slopes of the Jemez Mountains since erupting on Sunday near the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and was poised to become New Mexico’s largest ever wildfire by day’s end.
“We’re seeing fire behavior we’ve never seen down here, and it’s really aggressive,” Los Alamos County Fire Chief Douglas Tucker told reporters, adding that earlier hopes of lifting evacuations in the area by this weekend had been dashed. Full Story
Fire Stirs Old-Waste Concern For Los Alamos Lab
No Signs Of Radiological Release Yet, Lab Says
POSTED: 6:36 pm MDT June 30, 2011
UPDATED: 7:09 pm MDT June 30, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fire officials said it’s looking increasingly likely that the Las Conchas fire will not reach the Los Alamos laboratory, but there are still concerns about the areas around the facility which authorities said could be filled with decades-old waste.
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan said they really don’t know what’s in the ground around the nuclear facility, admitting that old contamination could be a big question mark when it comes to the long-term effects of the fire.
“We do know some things about what are there. (But) is our knowledge perfect? No. Is it zero? No,” McMillan said.
McMillan said there are areas off the lab property where waste was deposited decades ago, when safety standards were far lower.
McMillan said the laboratory continues to monitor air samples, and so far, there aren’t any signs of radiological release.