Los Alamos Officials Still Confident Lab Is Safe
But thousands of experiments remain idle during shutdown
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 30, 2011 12:14 PM CDT
A helicopter flies through the smoke from the Las Conchas fire in Los Alamos, N.M., Wednesday.   (Jae C. Hong)
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(Newser) – Los Alamos nuclear laboratory officials say it could be a few days before they'll know the extent of how experiments at the facility that created the first atomic bomb have been affected by a shutdown caused by a 125-square-mile wildfire. The lab has been shut down since Monday, when all of the city of Los Alamos and some of its surrounding areas—12,000 people in all—were evacuated. About 10,000 experiments had to be put on hold, and there's still no word on when the lab might reopen.

Among the work delayed are experiments run on two supercomputers, the Roadrunner and Cielo, the latter of which is among the world's fastest computers. Projects range from extending the life of 1960s-era B61 nuclear bombs, to studies on how climate change affects ocean currents. Fire officials say they are confident the fire won't spread onto the lab and the town of Los Alamos. "It's looking good right now," says the county fire chief.