The wildfire in New Mexico has become the highest priority fire in the U.S. now, as the flames drawing closer to Los Alamos national nuclear lab have engulfed at least 61,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest with massive expansion of smoke witnessed.
The main blaze sparked a smaller fire on the lab site itself, but it was quickly extinguished, according to fire crew.
Fire crew have begun burning a 4-mile-long barrier in an attempt to prevent the blaze from reaching the heart of the lab.
The wildfire was first sparked on June 26 near Jemez Ranger District in the Santa Fe National Forest.
If the wildfire expands another 3.5 miles, it could overtake an area where 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste are being stored above ground.
The plant is now backtracking and admitting the existence of the gallons of dangerous waste, which was previously denied.
The drums contain cleanup from Cold War-era waste according to Lisa Rosendorf of the Los Alamos, while the Los Alamos Study Group has claimed that the waste is much newer than that, reports RT.
The plant, which is believed to have tested more nuclear weapons than any other facility in the world, is thought to be cranking out more nukes than ever.
Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico is one of the largest employers in northern New Mexico with about 9,000 employees. The lab was founded during World War II to develop the first nuclear weapons.
Officials at the premier US nuclear-weapons lab tried to assure the public saying that dangerous materials were safely stored and capable of withstanding flames.
The laboratory released a statement midday Wednesday stating,
Despite no wildfire currently on Los Alamos Laboratory property, the Laboratory has established a network of seven high-volume air samplers along the southern, northern and eastern boundaries of Laboratory property to verify that hazardous materials are not leaving the Laboratory in smoke from the fire.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico will remain closed through Thursday, June 30, as the Las Conchas Fire is threatening the nuclear lab.
Meanwhile, some U.S. nuclear officials have been downplaying concerns about two nuclear power plants in Nebraska that are being threatened by flooding.
Water from the Missouri River has surrounded the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station while floodwaters have been creeping closer to the Cooper Nuclear Power Station, reported VOA News. The floodwaters were of concern for potentially knocking out the plants' electric power supply, allowing the nuclear materials to overheat, and subsequently causing a meltdown.
The officials that oversee both power plants have asserted that a meltdown will not occur at either facility. There are sufficient back-up systems to make sure that the tragedy at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant will not be repeated.
The threats of nuclear power plants meltdown arose amidst the growing concerns over the Fukushima nuclear power meltdown. The world was just about to turn to the U.S., revealing the nation's unpreparedness for such hazards.
United States nuclear officials say that exhaustive review of safety standards and procedures have been conducted across American nuclear power plants and rectors since the March earthquake and tsunami that caused 1, 2 and three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to go into meltdown.
There are 104 nuclear reactors that operate in the United States which supply 20% of the nation's electricity.
Los Alamos has now inevitably intensified the attention on nuclear safety in the United States which was refocused by the case in Fukushima.
Lessons need to be learned from the nuclear meltdown that will devastate the Japanese economy for decades to come. The US is said to have been in serious trouble before Fukushima and have done very little to alleviate fears after. The raging fires in Los Alamos may prove whether the nuke labs in this nation are truly fireproof. Fukushima has been the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind, and this time, we hope that Los Alamos will not renew the record.