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LOS ALAMOS FIRE EXPOSES GRAVE CONCERN OVER HANDLING OF DEADLY TOXINS

29 Jun 2011,

LOS ALAMOS (Sp. Sycamores), N.M. One would scarcely recognize this sprawling laboratory as the former home of the “Manhattan” Project that ushered-in the Nuclear era by developing the first atomic bomb in 1944.  In the last few days it has been visited by intense wildfires (again) which has raised great concern because of what sits atop the ground there.  Lab spokeswoman Heather Clark said Wednesday there are 10,000 drums stored there under fire-retardant tents. OMINOUSLY, Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic (man-made Isotopes)waste, gloves, toolboxes, tools, and other items that may have been contaminated during the course of their work.  Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three-high inside the tents.

LOS ALAMOS IS NOW THE U.S. MAIN NUCLEAR WEAPONS LABORATORY; So, scientists are busy sampling the air for chemicals and radiological materials. The lab covers more than 36 square miles and includes about 2,000 buildings at nearly four dozen sites. They include research facilities, as well as radioactive waste-disposal sites. Some facilities, including the administration building are in Los Alamos, while others are miles from the town. Los Alamos probably contains one of our nation’s greatest aggregation of nuclear PhD’s among its more than 15,000 employees.

AIR QUALITY MONITORING dozens of fixed-air monitors on the ground, as well as a “flying lab” dispatched by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The special twin-engine plane is outfitted with sensors that can collect detailed samples. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico  requested the EPA’s help early-on in the monitoring effort near the Los Alamos National Laboratory. EPA officials said the “flying-lab” was set to make its initial data-collection fight on  29 Jun 2011(Wednesday), additional ground-based monitors were on their way, some of which would be placed in neighboring Espanola and Santa Fe.  Both State and Federal officials have vowed to make all findings from the monitoring efforts public. Sen. Udall said: “I know people are concerned about what’s in the smoke …so we can assure the public…there will be multiple layers of oversight”.  Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said environmental specialists were monitoring air quality, but the main concern was smoke; Hence, the need to monitor for radioactivity and particulates.  Kevin Smith, is the site’s manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration(NNSA) said he evaluated the precautions and felt comfortable. NNSA oversees the lab for the Department of Energy(DOE). Smith said: “I have 170 people who validate their measures.” SEE THERE – EVERYBODY IS HAPPY, INSTEAD OF MAD AS HELL!)

THE WHY OF THE CONCERN Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic (cesium, plutonium, krypton, etc- Nasty stuff!) radioactive contaminated waste such as gloves, toolboxes, tools, etc.  Lab spokeswoman Heather Clark said Wednesday there are 10,000 drums stored there under fire-retardant tents. Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three high inside the tents. Area “G” holds drums of cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away for storage in weekly shipments, according to lab officials. Top lab officials and fire managers say there have been no releases of toxins, and that they confident the flames won’t reach key buildings, or areas, where radioactive waste is stored. As a last resort, foam could be sprayed on the barrels containing items that might have been contaminated through contact with radioactive materials to ensure they aren’t damaged by fire (shades of Fukushima delirium tremens), they said.

NEARBY RESIDENTS WEARY About the potential of a radioactive smoke plume if the flames reach thousands of barrels of waste stored in above-ground tents at the lab. Mai Ting, a resident who lives in the valley below the desert mesas that are home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory said: “If it (the fire) gets to this contamination, it’s over—not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe and all of us in between,” THEIR CONCERN IS THAT GREAT!

FIRE APPEARS UNDER CONTROL The wildfire has already destroyed 30 structures south and west of Los Alamos;  However, favorable winds have helped firefighters, who were busy trying to keep the fire from moving off Pajarito (sp. Tweety) Mountain to the west of Los Alamos and, into two narrow canyons that descend into the town and the lab. The spot fire last 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 officials warned that people might see more smoke coming from the lab border, but that there was no fire burning on the site as of mid-Wednesday.

MY TAKE

It appears nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel don’t get any “Respect”.  Perhaps those who produce the waste would like to ignore it, but it will not go away- not for a few thousand years.   It is alarmingly worrisome to know that at Los Alamos, there are 10,000 drums of waste , under fire-retardant tents, which contain transuranic waste (THIS IS REAL UGLY STUFF in terms of radioactive persistency), …UNDER FIRE-RETARDANT TENTS- GET REAL!  DOE, THAT IS IRRESPONSIBLE, AND UNPROFESSIONAL.  WE EXPECT BETTER FROM TRANSURANIC PRODUCERS AND HANDLERS.  Honest…

Gonzedo

June 29, 2011 at 9:27 PM
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