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Huge Blaze Edges Closer To US Nuclear Lab

Huge Blaze Edges Closer To US Nuclear Lab

1:08pm 29th June 2011
(Updated 12:04am 30th June 2011)

Firefighters continue to battle a major fire in New Mexico that is getting nearer to the United States' top nuclear weapons production site.

The fire teams have spent a third day trying to tackle the out of control wildfire.

The Los Alamos site is used to store over 20,000 barrels of plutonium-contaminated waste like clothing and equipment.

The lab has been closed since Monday and the town of Los Alamos, which has a population of around 10,000, has been evacuated.

Officials for the government-run site said the stored waste is considered low-level radioactive material and remains a safe distance from the fire in an area cleared of trees and other vegetation.

Charles McMilla, the lab director, said: "Release of radioactive materials and hazardous materials? There hasn't been any... let me say that again, there hasn't been any."

A similar wildfire in May 2000 destroyed some lab buildings and caused more than $1bn (£626m) damage.

The Los Alamos site was established during the Second World War as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb.

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