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LANL is waiting to hear about help for Puerto Rico

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By Tris DeRoma

The Department of Energy has not yet responded to New Mexico’s congressional delegation’s letter not to forget the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s expertise in helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria and Irma.
A DOE spokesperson, speaking on background, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already directed the DOE and the Army Corps of Engineers to supply the Caribbean island with the manpower and technology it needs to stabilize and restore the island’s power grid.
“USACE continues to work hard and do everything possible to support FEMA, the government of Puerto Rico and the people of the island,” a statement in a DOE factsheet said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the DOE are currently working with Puerto Rico Power Authority and the Puerto Rican government to immediately restore power to the remote Caribbean island.
The spokesman also said they are aware of the resources LANL could offer but the department and its Army Engineer Corps partners are taking care of the situation. The Corps is also receiving help from other U.S. agencies, including the DOE’s Western Area Power Administration.
According to the DOE, the efforts mark the largest temporary power mission in history for the 249th Engineer Battalion on U.S. soil.
More generators were installed in Puerto Rico than in Florida and Texas in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Harvey, a statement from the DOE said. Over 400 generator assessments have been completed and more than 134 generators have been installed.
The Corps of Engineers also ordered 50,000 power poles and 6,500 miles of power cable to the island. The mission is one of the largest federal military-medical responses in U.S. history.
Over 700 airdrops have been made to provide commodities to isolated communities.
LANL Spokesperson Kevin Roark said the lab is standing by if and when the DOE ever calls on its help.
“The laboratory would be ready to help in any way we can, if needed,” Roark said.
The Democratic legislators from New Mexico issued a call last week for the state’s national laboratories, including Los Alamos, to assist in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria late last month. According to reports, the island was left without any electrical power and most residents are still without power after nearly a month since the disaster.
Senators Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan sent a joint letter to the DOE and the Department of Homeland Security, suggesting technology and resources at the lab be used to aid the commonwealth and the victims of the disaster.
“We need to do everything we can to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico recover from the large-scale devastation they are facing,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) said. “Our national laboratories are invaluable, and should be assisting with short-term and long-term relief efforts, like grid modernization, updating infrastructure, and educating students to respond to electrical infrastructure issues in the future.”