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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Los Alamos Fire: Why Nuclear Waste Is Probably Safe
29 June 2011 5:58 pm
A key barrier between the New Mexico wildfire that started several days ago and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a road which has been cleared of trees and debris, has held. That has so far prevented the spread of the fire toward the lab, which sits on the eastern side of the blaze. That was the word today from Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker during a briefing of reporters. Only 3% of the fire has been officially contained, Tucker said, but winds are blowing the fire west, away from the lab.
While the edge of the fire is only a few dozen meters from the edge of the lab's property, it is roughly 13 km from the most sensitive location, the so-called "Area G." That site is a 63-acre storage facility where thousands of drums of nuclear waste sit, many of which are outdoors.
But between the fire and that site is the remnants of a forest that was largely burned during a horrific 2000 fire on lab property. That fire burned "90%" of the flammable material from the west side of the lab, says Los Alamos retiree Charles Mansfield, who worked as a physicist at the lab for 17 years and also as a forest firefighter, a so-called smokejumper, for 11 years. Mansfield says he's "not very concerned" about the fire reaching spreading east to Area G.
"It would be very difficult for the fire to get that far," he says. Sometimes embers in a hotly burning fire can be lofted as much as 4 miles to start so-called "spot fires." But this requires a forest burning completely, from the ground to the high branches, he says. The area of forest close enough to have a chance to create the heat and updrafts required to bring the blaze to Area G has already burned, Mansfield contends. That would mean that the grass and brush required to get the trees on fire is gone.
A 1-acre fire that started when embers landed in a remote area of the lab that is used for explosives testing is the only instance of the 70,000 acre blaze reaching the sprawling laboratory grounds. The lab, which has been closed since Monday, will remain closed tomorrow and possibly Friday.