Updated 4:30 pm: The Las Conchas fire, at 60,741 acres as of this morning, is "a road away" from the nuclear lab, according to Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker.
According to a recent press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Las Conchas fire has burned up to State Road 4, which borders the lab's southwest edge.
"When you ask how close it is to the border, it’s a road away,' Tucker says in the release. The lab remains on essential services only tomorrow (Wed., June 29). Approximately 12,000 residents have been evacuated.
(Click here for evacuee resources and how you can help.)
A story in today's Wall Street Journal confirms the presence of drums of radioactive waste bound for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico onsite at LANL. (Nuclear activist group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety raised this concern yesterday.)
But LANL officials have, throughout the day, insisted that those materials are protected and that New Mexicans are not at risk.
To wit, from the presser:
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico June 28, 2011 -- Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan today thanked emergency responders fighting the Las Conchas wildfire and again assured the region that the Laboratory’s nuclear facilities and hazardous material sites are safe and protected.
“Wildland fire risks are a key part of our safety analyses,” McMillan said during a joint news conference in downtown Los Alamos. “There are fire mitigations at all of our nuclear facilities, and I am confident in our ability to protect all of them. This is a strong team protecting a national treasure.”
There are, of course, plenty of people who are a lot less sanguine. Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, for one, today spoke with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on the risks the fire poses to a nuclear lab. Click here to read/listen.
The Pacheco Fire, closer to Santa Fe, expanded last night to 10,057 acres. Two new fires ignited near Hondo, close to the Lincoln National Forest.
From the WSJ:
Lab officials at first declined to confirm that such drums were on the property, but in a statement early Tuesday, lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said such drums are stored in a section of the complex known as Area G. She said the drums contain cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away in weekly shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
She said the drums were on a paved area with few trees nearby and would be safe even if a fire reached the storage area. Officials have said it is miles from the flames.
"These drums are designed to a safety standard that would withstand a wildland fire worse than this one," Ms. Rosendorf said.
Here's a nuts-and-bolts update from the lab, sent out this morning. Also, be sure to check out the awesome photos on LANL's flickr stream.
- No fires burned on Lab property overnight
- The Lab announced it will remain closed on Wednesday, June 29.
- All nuclear and hazardous materials, including those at the Lab’s principal waste storage site known as Area G, are accounted for and protected.
- LANL monitoring teams detected no releases of radiological or other contaminants.
- Water tanks at the Lab’s wild land fire helicopter landing pad are re-filled in preparation for today’s firefighting activities.
- LANL will support an aerial reconnaissance of the fire area during the morning.
To date, the Las Conchas fire has entered Lab property at only one remote LANL technical area. Ground crews and air drops extinguished the one-acre spot fire at Technical Area 49 within hours on Monday afternoon.
And from an earlier release about where the fire's burning:
Los Alamos, NM -- Local and Type 1 fire crews continue efforts to contain and control the approximately-60,000 acre Las Conchas wildfire as it approaches the Los Alamos Ski Hill area. Water tanks throughout the town site are at full volume according to Los Alamos Dept. of Public Utilities officials.
At the 6 a.m. Emergency Operations Center briefing today, on-the-ground reports from firefighters described spotting fires in the Pajarito Mountain vicinity. Officials reported, “There is fire across the Ski Hill, a slowly creeping fire across the top of Pajarito Canyon, rimming fire near camp May, and fire on Pipeline Road. The Ski Lodge can be saved and that’s why we’re there now, preparing the buildings.We are confident that we can protect structures because of the strike teams we have in place.”
According to a lab release sent late last night, LANL hopes to have teams from the National Nuclear Safety Administration's Radiological Assistance Program in place by Tuesday "in order to augment existing radiological effects of the Las Conchas fire."
No word yet on exactly what that means, but in the release, Los Alamos site office manager Kevin Smith said RAP serves as merely "another level of assurance from potential radiological releases as the fire progresses."
According to NMFireInfo.com, it did progress last night, but firefighters have been backburning to try to prevent its spread. Below is a preliminary map of the fire's borders, coursey of the State Forestry Division: