Los Alamos National Laboratory will reopen Wednesday, 10 days after a fire that now totals just under 128,000 acres forced the closure of the 36-square mile facility located on a series of mesas and canyons 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, N.M.
A lab spokesman said it will take a few extra days to get the key supercomputers used for weapons research back in operation.
Director Charles McMillan told the lab's 11,782 employees in a message that the facility "appears to have escaped serious damage from the Las Conchas fire . . . [but] we must remain cognizant of the fact that many members of our workforce may still be affected by this emergency while the Las Conchas fire continues to threaten other communities in the region."
Spokesman Kevin Roark said the lab will not restart its Cray Cielo and IBM Roadrunner supercomputers -- the sixth and 10th fastest in the world, respectively -- until officials make sure the power is clean and the ventilation and data storage systems are operating correctly.
These supercomputers normally run 24 hours a day with time tightly scheduled, so managers will have to rejigger the schedule once the computers are back in operation, Roark said.
All other information technology systems at the lab are up and running, he added.
The City of Los Alamos, home to 42 percent of the lab workforce, allowed its 12,000 residents to return Sunday after being evacuated on June 27, but wild land fire managers warned that the blaze "above Los Alamos is active and visible."
Las Conchas is now 27 percent contained, fire managers said, with lines around the lab secure. But, they added: "There are many islands of unburned ground. In these areas, fire backs down slopes, and then makes visible short uphill runs. This pattern is likely to continue until the summer rains extinguish the fire."
McMillan said it will take two full days to completely reopen the facility, with key managers conducting walk downs Tuesday to "assess safety conditions for our workforce and to determine what services and capabilities are in place to enable us to perform our mission."
He urged employees to arrive Wednesday "with an attitude of flexibility and tolerance." McMillan also asked for patience. "You should not necessarily expect a fully operational [lab] during your first days back to work," he said. "Some of our systems will require several days to be fully operational."
Safety comes first as the lab returns to operation, McMillan said, and "we must not let programmatic pressures force us into mistakes. We will assess the effects of this emergency on cost and schedule and work with our sponsors to recover in a safe, secure and responsible manner."