Los Alamos fire moves away from nuclear waste

The government sent a plane equipped with radiation monitors over the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory Wednesday as a 110-square-mile wildfire burned at its doorstep, putting thousands of scientific experiments on hold for days, the Associated Press reports. No radiation was found in the air.

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that officials there say there was nothing to worry about anyways.

With fire burning just a few miles away, Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman Terry Wallace pointed out Area G. It's there that 10,000 fifty-five gallon drums filled with low level radioactive material are stored.

"The bulk of the drums there truly are things like notes that are contaminated, contaminated gloves," Wallace says.

Those drums are in outdoor domes made of reinforced steel covered with a plasticized fire retardant. But lab officials insist this site and two others containing additional radioactive materials are safe. More radioactive waste is stored in concrete tubes buried deep in the ground; plutonium and uranium are stored in vaults inside hardened concrete buildings.

Los Alamos fire stokes fear of radioactive smoke

Air quality tests over the sprawling facility show no traces of radiation, but critics say no one really knows what would happen if Area G caught fire. Los Alamos officials refuse to consider a worst case scenario involving radiation release.

"I don't believe there is any specific danger to the public from our activities at Los Alamos. The danger is from that fire on the mountain" says Carl Beard, Los Alamos operations director.

Folks who live in the nearby town of Los Alamos like Denise Lane stand by the lab.

"Those people who work there are my neighbors. They live next door to me. I know who they are," Lane says.

The wind picked up a bit today, but fortunately it is now taking the fire away from Los Alamos.

  • Cynthia Bowers

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