Burning questions draw explosive answers

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By Roger Snodgrass

Long-time residents of Los Alamos say they seldom notice the periodic booms that punctuate the silence of their mountain settlement.

But newcomers and some of the neighbors across the river and down in the valley have complained that the blasts lately have rattled their windows in Santa Fe and beyond Espaola and that they can hear the sounds of explosives testing from the nuclear weapons laboratory in Los Alamos.

These complaints were included with 24 questions submitted to the laboratory in May by community groups including Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group and neighboring pueblos.

On Wednesday, the official in charge of open-air burns and detonations at Los Alamos National Laboratory answered many of the specific questions about what explosives work the lab is currently doing, how the practice is monitored and regulated, and how it is changing.

Jay Dallman, the head of the lab’s Dynamic and Energetic Materials Division gave a picture of a shrinking footprint and a declining role for burns and detonations at the laboratory in recent years.

He gave a presentation to the Community Radiological Monitoring Group, an ongoing community forum mediated by the New Mexico Environment Department where regional environmental issues with the laboratory are regularly discussed.

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