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Updated 1 pm: The Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos National Lab has reached almost 70,000 acres, according to today's fire information update. The lab reports that it is monitoring air quality with 7 high-volume air samplers.
From the lab:
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico June 28, 2011 -- Despite no wildfire currently on Los Alamos Laboratory property, the Laboratory has established a network of seven high-volume air samplers along the southern, northern and eastern boundaries of Laboratory property to verify that hazardous materials are not leaving the Laboratory in smoke from the fire. Preliminary results of air samples taken at Los Alamos National Laboratory boundaries show no radioactive materials from Laboratory operations or legacy waste in smoke from the Las Conchas fire.
“There are no wildfires burning on Lab property and our nuclear and hazardous materials are accounted for and protected,” said Laboratory Director Charles McMillan. “As scientists we need data to ensure that our employees and regional neighbors are not affected by our operations. Preliminary air sampling results confirm this.”
The high-volume air sample filters are being split with one half of each filter being analyzed on site for a quick turnaround of results and the other half being sent to an offsite, independent laboratory for analysis and corroboration of the preliminary results.
LANL also announced this morning that it "will begin a series of targeted, preventative burns along the western edge" of the lab in order to reduce the amount of potential fuel for the Las Conchas fire.
"Observers may notice increased smoke coming from the LANL border," the release warns. "At this time there is no wildfire on Laboratory property."
Yesterday, reporters from Outside Magazine went to take a look at the fire itself. Check it out:
The official estimate for the fire's size yesterday was 60,741 acres.
In other news, though the Las Conchas fire is much bigger and moved much faster than the Cerro Grande fire of 2000--but the lab says it's ready. Nuclear activist groups disagree.
Last night, both LANL and the activist group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety--which first sounded the alarm about the barrels of radioactive waste on lab property--sent out press releases.
The lab's consisted of a laundry list of safety measures implemented since 2000, from fire trucks to erosion control systems and tree thinning.
CCNS' release warns northern New Mexico residents not to be so sure.
"One of the lessons of the Cerro Grande fire...is that we can't trust the statements by the officials. Their statements
If the past two days' chain of events are any indicator, CCNS may have an unfortunate point.
The lab at first declined to comment on questions about the drums of radioactive waste, which are being stored on LANL property in advance of their being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. But, as the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, officials finally yielded under pressure:
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.
LANL officials have nonetheless maintained that the fire is miles away from Area G and that the drums are safely insulated. CCNS, needless to say, doesn't agree--but local residents should be able to air concerns at a series of meetings happening in the Los Alamos area today. (Click on the link for more info.)
In the meantime, we're still waiting on this morning's fire reports for the status of the Las Conchas blaze.
In southern New Mexico, near Ruidoso, the Donaldson fire has swelled to a worrisome 15,000 acres. It consists of two separate lightning-born fires that joined.
Here's the full presser from the lab, about safety measures. LANL will remain closed through tomorrow (Thurs., June 30).