As of Thursday, May 11, fire still raging out of control at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Laser weapon has passed its first test at the White Sands Missile Range in southeastern New Mexico

WIPP meetings on proposed Class Two Modifications to the Hazardous Waste Permit to be held

*For the second time in five years, the safety of Los Alamos National Laboratory, about 20 miles northwest of Santa Fe, was threatened by a raging forest fire. The fire started as a prescribed burn and got out of control as typically spring-like high desert winds fanned the flames. Los Alamos and White Rock have been evacuated, and by Thursday Santa Clara Pueblo and the western part of Espaņola were being voluntarily evacuated. The Santa Fe National Guard was called in to help. KOB Radio reported that Army Commandos were standing by to remove the plutonium and explosives from the laboratory if necessary. There are concerns about the fire reaching Technical Area 16 and Technical Area 15, which are firing sites where the ground most likely is contaminated by depleted uranium, high explosives, mercury and other toxic substances.

Over the years of weapons work, a large number of sites at Los Alamos have been contaminated with radioactive and toxic materials that haven't been cleaned up. Paul Robinson of Southwest Research and Information Services, said the fire could cause problems even if it's off-site in an area where no active experimental work occurred. Hazardous and radioactive contaminants could have been carried in areas around the lab over time, or could have been released or discharged in incidents that weren't reported or documented. These releases or emissions could then be redistributed by the fire. The lab said nothing of the sort was occurring. The New Mexico Environment Departments DOE Oversight Bureau has gone out into the field to do readings.

*In other news, according to American military officials, a powerful laser called the Tactical High Energy Laser, developed by the United States and Israel to supposedly shoot down rockets, has passed its first test at the White Sands Missile Range in southeastern New Mexico, hitting a stationary target. If this laser is eventually used, the system would be the first of its kind. Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization at the Pentagon said, ``To my knowledge, no nation has ever deployed an antimissile system based on a laser.´´

The laser was designed and built by a California contractor, TRW. It will probably be tested this month against a moving rocket. If the test is successful there are plans to ship the system to Israel for further testing and deployment.

Marco Morales, a spokesman for the Space and Missile Defense Command, said the cost to develop the system through the first attempted shoot-down was $190 million. The military states using these laser weapons, ``could in fact revolutionize warfare.´´

The U.S. military has also been working on an Israeli-American program for intercepting short-range missiles; an Air Force program to shoot ballistic missiles, such as Iraqi Scuds, using a laser on a Boeing 747 jumbo jet; and a joint venture by the Air Force and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization at the Pentagon to develop lasers that could be fired from space to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Tactical High Energy Laser's exact power, range and repetition rate for firing are classified. But one official suggested that the laser would have an initial range of four miles.

*In New Mexico there will be two public meetings on proposed Class Two Modifications to the Hazardous Waste Permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. In Santa Fe, the meeting will be held May 18th at the Hilton on Sandoval Street. The May 16th meeting is in Carlsbad. Call the CCNS office at 986-1973 for more information.

Back to News Index