A very large wildfire in New Mexico was moving close to a nuclear facility at Los Alamos, but fortunately firefighters have been successful at keeping it at bay. Los Alamos is the site where the first atomic bomb was constructed. Eleven years ago, due to wildfires, some of the lab’s structures burned. On July 4th the Los Alamos National Lab website posted an alert for their employees about their work schedule: “Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced it will re-open to employees on Wednesday, July 6, 2011, after being closed for more than a week during the Las Conchas fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history.”
Los Alamos national lab is located in an area that is prone to wildfires, and it appeared this year the fires might reach the research facility. “There was a scary moment when the fire spotted high up in Los Alamos Canyon, the fuel-rich gateway funneling into town and the lab.” (Source: KRQE.com) Last year wildfires were also a problem in the area.
Extreme weather like drought is now thought to be linked to climate change, which is a growing trend, and dry conditions make wildfires more likely. So does Los Alamos face a future of more wildfires, and if so, what would the consequences of the lab catching on fire? A related news article stated there are 20,000 drums of nuclear waste stored at Los Alamos, and if they were exposed to high temperatures, they could burst and release their contents into the fire plumes, which would be likely to spread the waste material.
Plans are also in the works for greater plutonium use there. Plutonium bomb-making wastes will double, according to Nuke Watch. Why are such large amounts of potentially damaging waste stored in an area that is prone to wildfires, and may actually become more so, due to dry conditions made worse by the effects of climate change?
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