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Wildfire Threatens Los Alamos Labs 134

Posted by timothy
from the batten-down-the-hatches dept.
1sockchuck writes "A fast-moving wildfire has closed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a Department of Energy facility responsible for weapons design and a vast array of research, as well as two of the world's top supercomputers. Lab officials said all radioactive and hazardous material had been accounted for and protected."
Adds an anonymous reader: "I live near LANL and apparently they have begun to evacuate the whole town. Here is some information I've received through an email chain: 'Our main concern is that the Las Conchas fire is about 3 1/2 miles from Area G, the dumpsite that has been in operation since the late 1950s/early 1960s. There are 20,000 to 30,000 55-gallons drums of plutonium contaminated waste (containing solvents, chemicals and toxic materials) sitting in fabric tents above ground. These drums are destined for WIPP. ... We understand that LANL has been working since late last night to build a fire line in Water Canyon, between the fire and Area G. ... Over the last 26 hours the fire has grown from 0 acres to about 45,000 acres – about the size of the Cerro Grande fire in 2000."
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Wildfire Threatens Los Alamos Labs

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  • The Black Hole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stokessd (89903) on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:11PM (#36591776) Homepage

    Quick! Move all the old junk in "The Black Hole" to a safe location:

    http://www.blackholesurplus.com/ [blackholesurplus.com]

    Sheldon

    • What an awesome store. Shit like this the only reason I can see for living in the US. So much awesome military surplus stuff. All we get here in Australia are sweaters, shirts and pants.

      • by Raul654 (453029)

        I worked in Los Alamos a couple years ago and made it a point to get out to the black hole. I was *very* disappointed that they were sold out of Geiger counters, but I did manage to get a machete other small stuff on the cheap.

      • by Squiddie (1942230)
        It's one upside, but like everywhere else, there are things that are just not that great.
  • by mschaffer (97223) on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:14PM (#36591812)

    It's not the first time, it won't be the last.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      How long till someone blames all these fires and all these floods on climate? :/
    • "There's been a fire."

      -- Michael Crichton, Andromeda Strain

  • atoms (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by mug funky (910186)

    more scary atoms news?

    would this seriously have made the front page on /. prior to the Japanese Tsunami?

  • More info (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:25PM (#36591888)

    There is a fire very close to Los Alamos National Laboratory. They have begun to evacuate the whole town. Here is some info from someone on the ground: Our main concern is that the Las Conchas fire is about 3 1/2 miles from Area G, the dumpsite that has been in operation since the late 1950s/early 1960s. There are 20,000 to 30,000 55-gallons drums of plutonium contaminated waste (containing solvents, chemicals and toxic materials) sitting in fabric tents above ground. These drums are destined for WIPP. We understand that LANL has been working since late last night to build a fire line in Water Canyon, between the fire and Area G. Over the last 26 hours the fire has grown from 0 acres to about 45,000 acres – about the size of the Cerro Grande fire in 2000.

    • by mug funky (910186)

      so would you consider Yucca Mountain a good or bad idea?

      • so would you consider Yucca Mountain a good or bad idea?

        Hush you. Don't you know that anything that helps the nuclear industry in any way, shape or form is automatically Evil(trademark, patent pending)? :)

      • by cynyr (703126)

        yes, Good as it presents a single place to monitor/guard(if you think it really needs it), bad because of the distance some of the waste will have to travel out in the open on public roads, where it could spill out on an interstate highway.

        Really what is the issue with storing it on site in 300 ton casks? It's not really going anywhere, and anyone with the ability to steal it is likely well funded enough that they could get it anyways.

        • Spill out on an interstate highway? Have you seen the youtube video where they tested the containers they ship this shit in? Hint, it involved being hit square on the side by a locomotive going 60 miles per hour, and there was no damage to the container.

          I'd link it, but the proxy here disallows YouTube.

          The point: they aren't shipping this stuff in a 1/4 inch thick stainless steel milk tanker. They actually built specialized equipment and defined procedures way back when they started planning Yucca Mount

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Over the last 26 hours the fire has grown from 0 acres to about 45,000 acres

      At this rate, the entire US will be on fire in about 145 years [xkcd.com].

  • I Live in New Mexico (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrJimbo (594231) on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:33PM (#36591944)

    The fire danger has never been higher. Some places make it against the law to even smoke outside. Over the past month there have been days when we've been inundated with smoke from the wildfires in Arizona. It is hot, dry, and windy.

    You would think that selling and setting off fireworks would also be illegal this year (it is usually allowed for a week before and after July 4th, but this hasn't stopped people from lauching fireworks whenever they want to) yet there are huge tents in the parking lots of all the grocery stores selling fireworks. The reason is that in New Mexico there is a state law that makes it illegal for communities to ban the sale and use of fireworks. Instead of working to fix this crazy law, the governor asked New Mexicans to "exercise caution and restraint when it comes to using fireworks."

    Is this a great state or what?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:47PM (#36592038)

      I too, live in New Mexico. Most people I've talked to don't realize how dry it is right now. It has been over 9 months since some parts of the state, like Silver City, have had rain. We are supposed to be in the rainy season right now, but instead we are in the worst drought since the dustbowl. I went camping last weekend and I saw 3 different fires all on my way back to town. It regularly snows ash, and sometimes the city is so covered in smoke it looks like thick fog. The air quality gets so low that you can't go outside. Normally that wouldn't be an issue, but around here, most people have swamp coolers, these devices that cool the outside air via evaporation and pump it inside. It's a really cheap way of cooling your house, but it doesn't filter the air well, so it doesn't really change anything. I regularly feel like I'm not getting enough oxygen. Its a really scary feeling..

      • I too, live in New Mexico. Most people I've talked to don't realize how dry it is right now. It has been over 9 months since some parts of the state, like Silver City, have had rain.

        If New Mexico is anything like Los Angeles, fire season starts when there's not been any significant rain for 90 days. By this time, the brush must be like a tinderbox waiting for a spark. I hope you get some rain, RSN.
      • I regularly feel like I'm not getting enough oxygen. Its a really scary feeling.

        Depending on your age and health condition, you might want to invest in a small oximeter and a bottle of medical O2. Better yet, go have a scheduled physical checkup like everyone else.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        The air quality gets so low that you can't go outside

        Is this the cause for which ...

        Some places make it against the law to even smoke outside.

        ?

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      I've lived in Los Alamos (and many other parts of NM). I hope Los Alamos makes it through this okay, but it's looking worse and worse.

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      Another NMer.

      New Mexico, like much of the sun belt (especially Texas) needs water badly. We can only hope for the seasonal rains to kick in, but precipitation has been pretty crazy in the United States recently. If only there was a way to siphon water out of the Midwest flood plains...
      As for fireworks, I can only hope that the people buying them are merely stocking up for a more opportune time. I certainly hope people think twice before burning our state down.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      the governor asked New Mexicans to "exercise caution and restraint when it comes to using fireworks."

      And just how many pot smokers do you think he has in prison?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Is this a great state or what?

      6 times smaller than the neighbouring Texas.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        People who brag about Texas being so big should well consider that if Alaska were divided in two, Texas would be the THIRD biggest state.
        • by c0lo (1497653)

          People who brag about Texas being so big should well consider that if Alaska were divided in two, Texas would be the THIRD biggest state.

          Which will make the comparison of the "greatness" of New Mexico even more unfavourable.

          BTW, "bragging" about the size of Texas - far from my mind - I'm not even living in US.

        • by Gryle (933382)
          Yes, but Texas has more women, thus proving that size isn't everything.

          Thanks, I'll be here all week
    • You would think that selling and setting off fireworks would also be illegal this year

      Banning the use of fireworks would be the worst idea imaginable. The real problem we have is brush fires starting in remote areas. Banning fireworks == people going to remote areas to try to use them without being caught.

      If you're a local, you should be well aware that the fireworks laws we do have are popularly ignored anyway.

      A better idea would be a public information campaign. A lot of people here who are inclined to

  • It's going to be bad (Score:3, Informative)

    by DesertJazz (656328) on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:40PM (#36591998) Homepage
    I was up in the mountains about 7 miles away when it started... It's ridiculously dry right now, high winds, and high temps. All that's going to be possible is evacuating people. The bad thing is it's going in the opposite direction of the 2000 fire, so there's plenty of fuel. The Bandalier National park has had about half of it's area burned so far as of earlier today. Thoughts and prayers to all who are in its path.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday June 27, 2011 @09:51PM (#36592070) Journal
    Back before the damn hippies forced us to can Project Plowshare we would have just dusted off a couple of bits and pieces from the back room and showed that fire what a real man's 'controlled burn' looks like. Kids these days. A few trees catch fire and they run around panicking. In my day, 'threat' meant 50 MIRVed megatons return-addressed 'Ivan', not an overgrown burn pit.
  • The lab was closed today and will be again tomorrow, and the townsite started voluntary evacuations last night. It turned into a mandatory evacuation this afternoon.

    Luckily, I have some friends to stay with in Santa Fe.

  • They set fires every once in a while to smoke out Chinese spies.

  • ANOTHER potential disaster threatening a facility with major nuclear equipment ? oh my.
    • by pz (113803)

      ANOTHER potential disaster threatening a facility with major nuclear equipment ? oh my.

      Show some respect. There's a town full of people around LANL whose lives are being threatened.

      • by Ltap (1572175)
        The point he's trying to make is that the news media in general is trying to capitalize from the furor surrounding the Fukushima incident by focusing on any kind of incident involving nuclear material.
        • And that isn't a valid concern?

          There's probably a lot more radioactive material at LANL than Fukushima, with a lot less containment.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Gertlex (722812)

            Haha. No. (At point 2)

            Fukushima has six reactor cores worth of nuclear material (25000 kg of Uranium per core - example is specifically the 1 GW Westinghouse AP1000 reactor), plus the spent fuel. The weapons program testing stuff has largely been moved to Nevada deserts, from what I've heard. It's not the good ole days of putting two hemispheres of HEU (on the order of several inches diameter) together and counting neutrons... there's minimal material of note in Los Alamos. (That's why we have the super c

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          Yeah, next they'll be running around screaming that the largest reactor in our solar system has caught fire.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Show some respect. There's a town full of people around LANL whose lives are being threatened.

        Show some respect. People lived in the western states for ten thousand years and simply moved their seminomadic existence every time there was a fire. In California in particular they burned their homes down every year to touch off yearly brush fires that would clear the undergrowth and leave the forests standing. Living where those people live in the homes those people live in is fucking stupid and they deserve neither sympathy nor respect. (I'm in a rental right now in the same situation, but I signed the

  • I live at San Ildefonso Pueblo. Los Alamos National Lab is within our aboriginal land rights/claims. We have "Sacred Areas" that abut Los Alamos. While our geographic aims may diverge, I can think of no other people I would like up at the "Hill" (we are at 5500 feet and Los Alamos is over 7000 feet) than the security forces at Los Alamos as well as the firefighters that have come from all over (including many Native Americans). May the Lord protect them and the fire abate. Excuse me, I must pack in case w
    • by jnik (1733)
      Thank you...and thanks to your governments for opening the back road through Rendija again. I bailed to Albuquerque Sunday night; not much to do now but follow the news and hope I have a house when we go back.
    • by Zty (690198)
      I can't agree more. I've lived on the Hill for about a year. I've never seen anything like the fire coming over the Jemez mountains on Sunday night, and I hope I never do again. The people who rush in to help while the rest of us are getting out are heros. I hope and pray for their safety and success. God Speed to them all! wsxian: It's good to know we have good neighbors. I hope that in the end you don't need to use the bags you're packing.
  • That the "radioactive and hazardous material" had to be accounted for and protected? Shouldn't the statement have read that such materials, as always, were secure?

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      No. Even if the material hasn't been moved in 50 years and inventory taken yesterday, they've still got to recheck everything before a fire 'blows through'.

      It takes one slack-jawed yokel making the assumption "safe yesterday, safe today" for a serious disaster to turn worse, much worse.

      • It's the same principle that you use in making sure a gun's unloaded when somebody hands it to you. Just because they just checked it doesn't mean that you don't check it yourself.
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Gryle (933382)
        I don't work at Los Alamos, but I do work with sensitive government items, and it's bit more than that actually. Government accountability of sensitive* stuff like this isn't a one-and-done. Inventories of sensitive items are done at regular intervals to make sure that what we said was there last week is actually still here this week. If it ain't, we backtrack to find out where the heck it went off to and whose soul to obliterate for not keep track of their stuff.

        *Stuff the US government doesn't want fal
      • by Surt (22457)

        Yeah, I'm talking about the phrasing. Of course they have to double-check, but their release sounds more like they fixed major problems.

  • My friend's house burned down a few days ago because of this fire.
  • Forget all the nuke sensationalism. LANL had a big wakeup call about a decade ago, concrete doesn't so easily burn, and it's unlikely anything really terrible that the "reporters" want to talk about, is going to happen. It would take a transgovernment level of incompetence; something humanity hasn't seen yet.

    OTOH, adios Pajarito. I was there three and a half weeks ago, and when I checked the fire maps last night .. Camp May is totally inside the fire perimeter now. It's been an annual tradition for us t

  • I think that it's not so bad.

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid

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