Wildfire at former nuclear testing area in Nevada poses no radiation threat, officials say

Wildfire at former nuclear testing area in Nevada poses no radiation threat, officials say

09 July 2011

published by www.therepublic.com

USA — A wildfire at the government’s former nuclear testing area in southern Nevada poses no threat of kicking up radiation, federal officials said Saturday.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokeswoman Kelly Snyder said the lightning-caused blaze was not burning near any site where 100 above-ground tests left radiation in the soil.

“We have all the locations mapped and know where the contaminated areas are and this fire is not burning near them,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s further than two miles from the nearest impacted soils.”

More than 900 other tests were conducted between 1951 and 1992 at the former Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but the fire would not affect other sites because the tests took place underground, she said.

“Our underground range starts from 90 feet down and obviously fire won’t impact something that far below ground,” she said, adding officials were keeping an eye on radiation levels as a precaution.

No injuries were reported, and no structures were threatened at what now is called the Nevada National Security Site.

Federal officials were unable Saturday to provide any updated figures for the blaze, which was 60 percent contained after burning about 5 square miles Friday night.

But Snyder said ground and air crews were still trying to contain the blaze Saturday and there was no estimated containment time. The fire was burning brush as well as pinon-juniper woodlands.

“This is an active fire. We have a variety of aircraft dropping water on the fire,” she said.

A separate 2-square-mile fire and another smaller blaze have been contained.

The fires were sparked by lightning Monday in a remote restricted area east of Beatty.

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