The bridge that separates the town of Los Alamos, N.M., from Los Alamos National Laboratory is shrouded in smoke from the Las Conchas wildfire on June 28, 2011. (Craig Fritz/Reuters) #
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More fire crews are arriving to help battle a wildfire that threatens the city of Los Alamos and the government nuclear lab there.
A vicious wildfire spread through the mountains above Los Alamos, New Mexico, driving thousands of people from their homes as officials at a government nuclear laboratory tried to dispel concerns about the safety of sensitive materials.
“The concern is that these drums will get so hot that they’ll burst. That would put this toxic material into the plume. It’s a concern for everybody.”— Joni Arends, executive director of anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.
“If it gets to this contamination, it’s over — not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe and all of us in between,” said Mai Ting, a resident who lives in the valley below the desert mesas that are home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
[...] Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic waste — gloves, toolboxes, tools — and other items that may have been contaminated through contact with radioactive materials. Top lab officials declined to say how many barrels were on site or how they are stored. An anti-nuclear group has estimated there could be up to 30,000 gallon-drums.
Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three high inside of tents on lab property.
The wildfire, which has swelled to nearly 95 square miles, has already sparked a spot fire at the lab. The fire Monday was quickly contained, and lab officials said no contamination was released.
[...] Some facilities, including the administration building, are in Los Alamos, while others are miles from the town. Most of the buildings from the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb in the 1940s were built on what is now the town and are long gone. The spot fire Monday scorched a section known as Tech Area 49, which was used in the early 1960s for a series of underground tests with high explosives and radioactive materials.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said environmental specialists were monitoring air quality, but the main concern was smoke. Lab personnel and the state environment department were monitoring the air for radioactivity and particulates. The state was also working to get additional ground-based monitors and an airborne monitor.
Smoke rises from a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. (Photos: CNN)
[5:37a.m. Monday ET, 6:37 p.m. Monday Tokyo] Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said officials did not know what was burning Monday in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor No. 3. He said the smoke was coming from the building’s southeastern side, where the reactor’s spent nuclear fuel pool is located.
Electricity has been restored to three reactors at the Japanese nuclear plant wrecked by fire and explosions after the 11 March quake and tsunami.
However the cooling systems are not yet operating, and the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says the situation remains “very serious”.
Some workers at the stricken facility were temporarily evacuated after smoke was seen rising from reactor No 3.
White smoke was billowing from a building that houses the No. 2 reactor at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station Monday afternoon, while grayish smoke that was seen rising from the building of the No. 3 reactor stopped shortly after 6 p.m., the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
The recent monster quake that hit northeastern Japan altered the earth’s surface, geologists say, loading stress onto a different segment of the fault line much closer to Tokyo.
Experts are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean a powerful earthquake is necessarily about to strike the Japanese capital. Even if it did, the structure of the tectonic plates and fault lines around the city makes it unlikely that Tokyo would be hit by a quake anywhere near the intensity of the 9.0-magnitude one that struck March 11, said Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey.
@Reuters: FLASH: Japan govt says expects to establish power supply to no.4 nuclear reactor “very soon”
@BreakingNews: Police estimate death toll from Japan’s quake, tsunami will exceed 18,000 – AP