Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 06/27/2011

Los Alamos National Lab threatened by wildfire; Flood waters reach Nebraska nuclear plant

A wildfire crests over the hills above Los Alamos National Labs on Sunday. (LUIS SANCHEZ SATURNO/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

As wildfires continue to rage in the southwest U.S., the Los Alamos National Laboratory — the site where the first nuclear weapons were developed during WWII — was evacuated early Monday as flames from the Las Conchas fire approached the facility.

Officials at the lab “say all radioactive and hazardous materials were being protected,” according to the Associated Press. About 100 nearby residents were also evacuated

Meanwhile, flood waters from the Missouri River have entered the turbine building at a Nebraska nuclear power plant after a berm collapsed.

An aerial view of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Nebraska, surrounded by Missouri River flood waters June 24, 2011. (STR/REUTERS)
A water-filled flood berm at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station was punctured by machinery and deflated Sunday, according to Mike Jones, a spokesperson from Omaha Public Power District. But officials say the seepage at the station, which has been shut down for refueling since April, posed no safety risk. “The plant is still protected. This was an additional, a secondary, level of protection that we had put up,” Jones said to CNN. “The plant remains protected to the level it would have been if the aqua berm had not been added.” The Cooper Nuclear Station, located about 80 miles south of Omaha, is still dry and operating.

Since the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a debate over the safety of nuclear energy has been raging.

Andrew C. Kadak, a former professor of nuclear engineering at M.I.T., told the New York Times that nuclear plants can sit until water recedes as long as there’s power. “The Fukushima lesson is really that you’ve got to have electricity,” he said.

By  |  12:03 PM ET, 06/27/2011

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