Los Alamos Nuclear Lab Threatened by Wildfire: Wind Forecast 6/27-6/29, Recent Images, Analysis, and Mainstream Link List

UPDATE 6/29/2011 0900PST

Today and tomorrow winds are forecast to blow in the teens out of the SSW.  Friday the winds are expected to subside and there is a chance of rain.

WildfireToday.com continues their excellent coverage.  For last nights IR Satellite image and their analysis, check them out here.

The fire grew by 8-10,000 acres in the last 24 hours and continues to threaten Los Alamos Lab.

UPDATE 6/28/2011 1200PST

WildFireToday.com is doing a great job covering this event.  From their latest:

[At a press conference today, Los Alamos Fire Chief] Tucker said the numerous barrels of stored radioactive waste at the Laboratory are surrounded by bare mineral soil or asphalt and there little chance that the fire could impinge on the barrels. The operations manager of the Lab said that if a wildfire does approach the radioactive materials they have equipment on site that will cover it with foam, further protecting it from fire.

UPDATE 6/28/2011 1030PST

Jeff Master's Weather Blog confirms that high winds today are expected to push the wildfire closer to the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.

Many mainstream sources assure us that all the radioactive material at Los Alamos is safe from any wildfire.  A large wildfire did $1billion of damage to the plant in 2000 and Los Alamos claims to have prepped for future fires in the wake of the 2000 fire.

This statement seems true: Los Alamos is a prestigious scientific facility as opposed to a typical power plant.  It seems safe to assume Los Alamos has higher safety standards than the media-blockading and previously-cited-as-negligent folks at Fort Calhoun outside Omaha.

Then again, the following was printed yesterday in the Forbes article Wildfire shuts down Los Alamos lab, forces evacuations:

The anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, however, said the fire appeared to be about 3 1/2 miles from a dumpsite where as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground. The group said the drums were awaiting transport to a low-level radiation dump site in southern New Mexico.

Who can you really trust these days? Well, the IR satellites and weather forecasts don't lie.  Read on.

UPDATE 6/28/2011 0845PST

SATELLITE IR IMAGE from 2:54am 6/28/11: WildfireToday.com offers a good explanation of this image and synopsis of the situation this morning at Los Alamos.
Today winds are forecast to build until mid day and linger in the teens throughout the evening.  Image: WindFinder.com

UPDATE 6/27/2011 1945PST

More mainstream coverage is flowing in.  Telling quotes are italicized below source titles...

CBC: Los Alamos nuclear lab menaced by wildfire

*Los Alamos National Laboratory was closed Monday as the blaze burned within a kilometer and a half of its southern edge. (MM: This confirms my earlier photo-analysis -- see below -- that the fire was ~1 mile SSW of the Lab today.)

*In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy's inspector general issued a report that said Los Alamos County firefighters weren't sufficiently trained to handle the unique fires they could face with hazardous or radioactive materials at the Los Alamos laboratory.

Lab and fire department officials at the time said the report focused too much on past problems and not enough on what had been done to resolve them. Some problems also were noted in previous reports.

Greg Mello, with the anti-nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, said the group doesn't have enough information "to formulate any views on safety at this point."

Reuters: Firefighters beat back flames on nuclear lab property

*Buildings still have not been touched by flames, and authorities said there was little threat to sensitive areas of the 28,000-acre complex.

*"The facility is very well protected from any kind of wildland fire threat," said [lab spokesman] Roark. He said the facility survived a May 2000 wildfire that claimed some lab buildings and did more than $1 billion in damage.

*"This fire is going to be with us for a while. It has the potential to double and triple in size," Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker said Monday afternoon.

*Due to high winds, all aircraft have been grounded, [Fire Chief] Tucker said. (Hmmm?... the wind gauges in the area are not registering unusually high winds: see below) 

 *The laboratory, which ensures the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, is a national security research facility located in the Jemez mountains of northern New Mexico. It was set up in 1943 as part of the Manhattan project to create the first atomic bomb and still maintains the nation's largest nuclear weapons arsenal.
Here is the *updated* wind forecast for Los Alamos at three hour intervals over the next four days.  The wind is forecast to be light at night but to hit the teens most afternoons.  The fire approaches the plant from the Southwest and the forecast winds could fan the fire and push it towards the lab.

Image: http://www.windfinder.com/report/los_alamos

Currently the wind is blowing out of the SSW at ~10mph with gusts to ~28mph.  These conditions are clearly pushing the fire in the wrong direction. Earlier this evening the winds shifted to the SE, which was encouraging, but now they have returned to the SSW.

Image: http://www.windfinder.com/report/los_alamos

UPDATE 6/27/2011 1645PST

Los Alamos Nuke Lab threatened by Wildfire in New Mexico...

Washington?  Houston?  Anyone?!  WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
.Image: http://livewire.koat.com/Event/Live_Updates_Las_Conchas_Fire_Burns_Near_Taos (Website flooded.)

This mashup shows a side by side comparison of Google Earth in relation to a photo taken today of the Las Conchas Fire in the immediate vicinity of the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.  The tallest building in the photo is clearly the semi-circular building visible in the Google Earth image.  Based on this comparison, the fire was within a mile or two of the lab at the time the photo was taken.

Click below for a more detailed view...

Image compiled by OilFreeFun with info from Google Earth and KOAT's Live Wire Coverage

This image's camera angle is from NE looking SW.

According to the Los Alamos Wind Gauge, the winds recently shifted to out of the Southeast, which is hopefully pushing the fire away from the lab:

UPDATE 6/27/2011 1530PST

Wind speed and direction are key factors in determining where a wildfire spreads.  The current wind forecast does not look good for the city of Los Alamos or the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.

Here is the location of the Los Alamos Wind Gauge in relation to the Lab and City:

Image courtesy Google Earth.  Wind gauge location from Windfinder

Here is the current forecast for the Los Alamos Wind Gauge (hour by hour through Wed, 6/29):

Strong winds from the South predicted daily through Wednesday 6/29/11.  Image source: Windfinder

Here is today's data and the current reading from the Los Almos Wind Gauge:

South winds at ~10mph with gusts to 30mph today, 6/27/11 @ 3:55pm local time.  Image Source: Windfinder
Unfortunately, the Las Conchas Fire was approaching Los Alamos from the South.  Today's winds have been pushing it closer to the nuclear lab and city.

Map of the Las Conchas fire showing heat, in red, detected by satellites at 11:45 a.m. June 27, 2011.  Image Source: Wildfiretoday.com with relative location of Los Alamos Nuke Lab added by OilFreefun.com
Today KOAT News reports:

A small fire has been reported on the property of Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is closed. The 1-acre fire was reported in Water Canyon within Lab's Technical Area 49. The fire has jumped north across NM State Route 4. The Lab will remain closed on Tuesday as well. 

The following image is supposedly of the Los Alamos Medical Center.  I cannot confirm it is genuine, but it was posted on local news KOAT's Life Wire Coverage and many comments vouched for its validity.

If this photo is legit, the camera is facing the Medical Center from the NE and pointing towards the Los Alamos Nuclear Facility which is located straight South of the Medical Center.  If the location is correct, there is clearly more than a "small fire" in the vicinity of the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.

Here is the Medical Center in relation to the approximate location of the Nuclear Lab, compliments of Google Earth.  The Nuclear Lab is a large facility and may not be exactly where the marker is placed, but it is within the .5 mile area.

Notice the semi-circular building over "Casa Grande Dr" in this image?  That's the tallest building in this photo...

Image courtesy http://livewire.koat.com/Event/Live_Updates_Las_Conchas_Fire_Burns_Near_Taos

At the time this photo was taken, the fire appears to be ~1 mile from the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.

UPDATE 6/27/2011 1400PST

KOAT (local news): Los Alamos being evacuated for wildfire (VIDEO)
"The 43,624-acre Las Conchas Fire is now threatening Los Alamos and mandatory evacuations are in place.  Fire officials said the fire is actively burning and is zero percent contained."

The fire has burned within 50 feet of the Los Alamos National Lab. LANL officials said all of the radioactive material is secure and accounted for.  Read the full story here. 

MSNBC reports: Fire destroys 30 structures as it nears Los Alamos nuke lab

AP: Los Alamos evacuation ordered because of wildfire

Washington Post: Mandatory evacuation of Los Alamos ordered because of wildfire threat

Time-lapse movie of the Las Conchas Fire, Los Alamos County, June 26 2011. Time-lapse exposures are from a vantage point just north of Santa Fe, home of Polly White & Michael Zeiler. Los Alamos city and labs can be seen to the right of the fire...

While the Missouri River floodwaters surround Fort Calhoun, the Las Conchas Wildfire is "within 50 feet" of the Los Alamos Nuclear Labratory.

Do we need any more proof that the US nuclear industry is very vulnerable and that Mother Nature has final say?

Will we get our shit together and heed these obvious wake up calls before the source of 1/5th of our electricity causes unbelievable hardship and agonizing death for millions of Americans?

When you consider that the NRC is in the nuclear industry's back pocket, it becomes obvious that we need to speak up NOW.