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New Mexico wildfire threatens nuclear lab

Fire managers say it's a "make or break day" Tuesday for ensuring flames from a wildfire don't race into a northern New Mexico town that is home to a government nuclear laboratory that stores sensitive materials.

Dr. Michio Kaku discussed his concerns Tuesday for the hazardous materials housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Kaku said around 20,000 to 30,000 barrels of plutonium contaminated waste is stored at the lab. That waste includes everything from gloves to fuel rods, according to Kaku.


“Plutonium is one of the most toxic particles known to science. A particle you can’t even see lodged in your lungs could cause lung cancer,” Kaku said. “What we’re worried about is what happens when the fires go right into these buildings and perhaps pop open some of these 55-gallon drums.”


Right now, Los Alamos National Lab officials said dangerous materials in the lab are secure and do not pose a threat.


Kaku said no one has ever fully tested the lab under real fire conditions.


“What happens if the fire spreads to the very heart of the laboratory? At that point, we have to cross our fingers hoping that ‘secure sites remain secure,’” Kaku said.



NBC nightly news.  

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