McMillan addresses community leaders' event

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LANL: First month challenging for new director

By John Severance

Los Alamos Site Office Manager Kevin Smith probably summed it best when it comes to LANL Director Charlie McMillan.

“It was a good first month challenge for a new lab director,” Smith said.

McMillan, attending his first regional community leaders’ breakfast as director, assumed the post at the beginning of June. But on June 26, the Las Conchas Fire erupted, threatening the lab and the townsite.

McMillan put himself up front and center during the crisis, attending daily news conferences at Ashley Pond. And most of what the lab went through during the fire already has been well documented.

On Thursday at the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe, McMillan, once again, thanked all the firefighters and community members who volunteered their services.

“After the Cerro Grande Fire, the government made some substantial investments,” McMillan said. “An Emergency Operations Center was built and the people in the center all worked efficiently. Around lab property, the fuels were thinned to reduce the risk of the fire spreading. I believe the investments that were made helped protect the lab, the nuclear facilities and the community at large.”

Even though the lab and town site escaped damage, McMillan expressed his sympathy to “our neighbors in Cochiti and Santa Clara and other areas that experienced great damage from the fire.”

The big concern now, McMillan said, is flooding and runoff. There already has been flooding up in Santa Clara and on Wednesday, an inch and a half of rain fell, which caused a minor mud and rock slide that closed N.M. 501 and N.M. 4 for a couple of hours.

“We have been working with mitigation efforts ever since the last fire.The fire has affected other watersheds,” McMillan said.

As part of the recovery process, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) has given $50,000 as seed money to establish a fund at Los Alamos National Bank to reimburse area businesses that provided goods and services during the fire. McMillan said LANL employees and the public can make a donation to the fund at any LANB branch in Los Alamos, White Rock, Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

McMillan also addressed a number of other topics.

The director said the cleanup work at Material Disposal Area B at TA-21 is 98 percent completed and all the monitoring wells have been drilled.

The lab will hold its third LDRD (Laboratory-directed Research and Development) Day on Sept. 13 at Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort.

Scientists will be on hand to explain their work to the general public.

“It’s a great chance for people to see what we are doing at the lab,” McMillan said.

In 2011, McMillan said LANL employees and ensuing matches by LANS have donated more than $2.5 million in employee giving programs.