The wildfire that threatens to consume the Los Alamos nuclear lab in New Mexico is now approaching the perimeter of the facility, with the Environmental Protection Agency on radiation alert for the deadly consequences of 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste going up in flames.
Having been miles away from the nuclear lab just yesterday, the fires have now reached to within 50 feet of the facility, with officials fearing a “major calamity” because the nuclear waste is not securely contained in a concrete structure, but is unbelievably stored “in a sort of fabric-type building that a fire could easily consume,” according to former top security official Glen Walp.
“The concern is that these drums will get so hot that they’ll burst. That would put this toxic material into the plume. It’s a concern for everybody,” said Joni Arends, executive director of the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, an anti-nuclear group.
The EPA has responded by bringing in “air monitors, along with a special airplane that checks for radiation levels,” reports ABC News.
The 95-square-mile fire has turned the city of Los Alamos into a ghost town, with 12,000 residents evacuating on Monday.
The EPA’s trustworthiness on reassuring Americans that there is no danger from radiation released into the atmosphere is likely to be somewhat lessened by what happened following the Fukushima disaster earlier this year.
As the Fukushima radiation plume took just days to arrive in the U.S., instead of advising Americans to take weaker forms of potassium iodine to build up their immunity to certain types of radioactivity, the EPA simply increased the allowable levels of the radioactive isotope iodine-131 by many thousands of times, despite the fact that within just two weeks of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nuclear plant, the amount of radiation released from Fukushima already rivaled that of Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster up until that point.
Within weeks of the Fukushima crisis, levels of radioactive Iodine-131 found in rainwater in California, Idaho, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, was already 181 times the U.S. federal standard for drinking water.
However, the EPA reacted by encouraging Americans not to take potassium iodide or any protective measures whatsoever. Indeed, Barack Obama all but insulted Americans who had responded by buying up supplies of potassium iodide pills as a precaution.
It’s little surprise that huge numbers of Americans responded to Fukushima by creating a run on potassium iodide pills and geiger counters. As the sustained cover-up by the Japanese government has once again proven, governments cannot be trusted to tell the truth about public health threats.
Nowhere was this more evident in the case of the EPA than in the days following 9/11, when ground zero workers were told that the air was “safe to breathe,” a contrived cover-up on behalf of the EPA and the White House that led to thousands of crippling illnesses and deaths of firefighters, police and first responders.
Despite official assurances that residents in surrounding areas were safe, the 3 Mile Island accident, which was miniscule compared to Fukushima, also led to a dramatic rise in cancer rates.
Should wildfires consume the nuclear waste stored at Los Alamos, the U.S. government will not be able to protect its citizens. As CNN highlighted during the height of the Fukushima crisis, the federal government has never purchased enough potassium iodide pills to meet that standard.
“There is currently only enough of the medication available for populations living within 10 miles of nuclear reactors in the United States, according to U.S. officials,” stated the report.