Threatened by flames, nuclear laboratories look into the future of wildfires | Technology

Written by MORGAN LEE-The Associated Press

Los Alamos NM (AP) —A stubborn wildfire sneaked up within a few miles of the city of Los Alamos and its associated National Security Institute, which closed public schools and packed evacuation bags this week. It’s a fascinating equation.

For those preparing to evacuate, use supercomputers to look into the future of wildfires in the western United States, where climate change and persistent droughts are instigating the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires. It included a team of scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Research and partnerships will ultimately produce reliable predictions that will shape the vast paths of national forests or selectively burn them, rapidly attacking cities, sterilizing soil and permanently changing ecosystems. You can prevent a potentially catastrophic fire.

“This is, in fact, what we’re actually trying to leverage to find ways to deal with future fires,” said a senior leading the effort to create a supercomputing tool that predicts the outcome of a particular fire. Lab Scientist Rodlin said. Terrain and conditions.

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The high stakes of the study are prominently displayed during the ferocious beginning of the spring equinox wildfire season. This includes flames that steadily inching towards the Los Alamos National Laboratory and trigger potential evacuation preparations.

The institute is one of two US sites preparing to manufacture plutonium cores for use in nuclear weapons. Laboratory officials say the critical infrastructure is well protected from 67 square miles (175 square kilometers) of fire.

Still, scientists are ready.

Adam Atchley, two fathers studying wildfire ecology and a laboratory hydrologist, said:

Wildfires that reach the Los Alamos National Laboratory slightly increase the risk of releasing radionuclides such as chemical waste and plutonium into the ash carried away by air and post-fire spills.

Mike McNorton, an environmental hygiene physicist at Los Alamos, said that chemical and radioactive waste was blatantly mistaken in the early days of the lab, which was born out of a World War II effort to design nuclear weapons under the Manhattan Project. I admit that it was handled.

“People fought a war to win, and they weren’t careful,” McNorton said. “Current emissions are very low compared to past emissions.”

Dave Fuehne, the institute’s team leader for atmospheric emissions measurement, says a network of about 25 atmospheric monitors surrounds the facility. An additional high-capacity monitor was deployed due to the fire that broke out in April.

Campus trees and understory vegetation are manually removed — 3,500 tonnes (3,175 metric tonnes) over the last four years, said Jim Jones, manager of the Lab’s Wildland FireMitigation Project.

“We don’t burn,” Jones said. “It’s not worth the risk.”

The flames also destroyed a mansion on the top of a hill in California and chewed the dry hillside of a crater of more than 422 square miles (1,100 square kilometers) in northeastern New Mexico.

The fire in the Sangredecristo Mountains was the largest fire in the United States and continued to march through the thick Ponderosa pine forest on Friday, leaving thousands of inhabitants still evacuated and at least in the accessible areas surveyed. 170 houses were destroyed. In Colorado, officials said one person was killed in a fire that destroyed eight mobile homes in Colorado Springs on Friday.

Atchley says he is contributing to research aimed at better understanding and preventing the most devastating wildfires, overheated flames, that jump over the crowns of mature pine trees. He says climate change is an unmistakable factor.

“It’s increasing the burning window of wildfires …. The wildfire season is all year round,” Atchley said. “And this is happening not only in the United States, but in Australia and Indonesia, and around the world.”

The answer is more frequent low-intensity fires deliberately set to mimic the burning and regeneration cycles that may have occurred every two to six years in New Mexico before the arrival of Europeans. He is not the only one to suggest that there is a possibility.

“What we are trying to do in Los Alamos is to understand how to safely carry out open burning, given that it is very difficult to deal with climate change,” he said. ..

Examples of deliberate open burning out of control include the 2000 Seroglande fire that struck 12 square miles of Los Alamos residential areas and laboratories (more than a quarter of the campus). The fire destroyed more than 230 homes and 45 structures in the lab. In 2011, a larger, faster-moving fire burned around the lab.

According to Atchley, western forests can be measured as one huge reserve that stores carbon and helps control climate change if extreme fires can be restricted.

Land managers say that vast US national forests cannot be thinned by hand and machine alone.

According to physicist Lin, the open burning modeling software is shared with land managers at the U.S. Forestry, Geological Survey, and Fish and Wildlife Department to see if it makes it easier to predict and control open burning. Preliminary test is done.

“We do not recommend blind use of these models,” he said. “We were at an important stage in building relationships with land managers and helping them start modeling.”

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Threatened by flames, nuclear laboratories look into the future of wildfires | Technology

Source link Threatened by flames, nuclear laboratories look into the future of wildfires | Technology

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