The lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico, is where our nation’s first atomic weapons were built. It continues to be a home to some of our nation’s brightest minds, about 15,000 of them, working in 2,000 different buildings in an area covering more than 36 square miles. They have nuclear waste disposal sites there. The place is big. It’s also very important to our national interests.
Last night, the wildfire came close, burning some thirty structures just south of the lab. The fire is also threatening Frijoles Canyon, which contains some ancient native-American archaeological sites, and the Bandelier National Monument. Here’s a screenshot of a map for you. Click once on the map to go to the site. There you can zoom in and out and get different views as well – topo, satellite, etc.
If there is any scrap of good news about any of this, it’s that Los Alamos has burned once before and survived. The Cerro Grande fire in 2000 caused over a billion dollars in property damage to Los Alamos, but there was no release of any toxic substances, including radiation. Evidently, they have their ducks in a row out there and are very careful about their storage practices. I’m assuming that all of the really nasty stuff is buried deep underground.
However, here’s a quote that I liked from an NPR piece I read this morning. It was made by a spokesman for a nuclear-watchdog group.
Greg Mello, with the anti-nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, said the group doesn’t have enough information “to formulate any views on safety at this point.”
“It is important to remind ourselves that the site has natural hazards … and Murphy’s Law is still about the best enforced law in the state,” he said.
I have to agree with that last bit. I would go so far as to say that Murphy’s Law has been the best-enforced law in our whole country this year. Here’s hoping that all goes well for the folks at Los Alamos and that no lives are lost while fighting this fire. Keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers today.