By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
One would think an entity with 13 nuclear facilities that experienced two catastrophic wildfires in recent years would be taking fire prevention seriously.
After all, the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned about 7,500 acres of Los Alamos National Laboratory property, resulting in $331 million in damages. And that figure doesn’t include an estimated $15 million in lost productivity per week during a 15-day shutdown and recovery period.
And then there was the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. While it ultimately burned only about 1 acre of LANL land, it forced roughly 10,000 LANL employees out of their offices and out of Los Alamos for more than a week.
But according to a recent report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, managers at LANL have not fully implemented measures designed to reduce the impact from wildland fires, including tree thinning in buffer zones below overhead power lines.
The report is so disappointing because the Las Conchas Fire, which burned about 156,293 total acres, started when a tree fell on a power line in the Santa Fe National Forest, resulting in a fast-burning “crown fire” that burned through tree canopy.