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Wildfire Threatens Nuclear Lab In New Mexico

June 27, 2011

Authorities said on Monday that a wildfire is threatening a nuclear laboratory in New Mexico.

The fire has spread to within a mile of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which ensures the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

The wildfire has grown to 43,597 acres and caused the evacuation of hundreds of people, with thousands encouraged to evacuate voluntarily.

Lawrence Lujan, a spokesman with the Santa Fe National Forest, told Reuters today the fire started Sunday afternoon and continues to start spot fires up to a half-mile ahead of the main fire line.

Lujan said the blaze has spread to within one mile of the lab’s southwest boundary.

Los Alamos National Laboratory closed on Monday because of the fire. 

Los Alamos Laboratory spokesman Kevin Roark said on Monday that officials at the lab have established an emergency Operations center and dispatched emergency crews across the lab to protect key facilities and materials.

He said the protected areas include all hazardous and radioactive facilities and the lab’s proton accelerator and supercomputing centers.

“We’ve been in contact with (NNSA Administrator) Tom D’Agostino as well as senior Department of Energy officials,” NNSA Los Alamos Site Office Manager Kevin Smith in a statement. “They are ready to support the Laboratory and people of Los Alamos County with additional resources as needed.”

Voluntary evacuations have been issued for the towns of Los Alamos and White Rock, which have a combined population of 18,000.  There were about 100 residents evacuated from Cochiti Mesa and Las Conchas communities, as well as Bandelier National Monument.

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