Los Alamos unplugs supercomputers as wildfires threaten

As a wildfire that has spread to nearly 145 square miles in New Mexico advanced toward the Los Alamos National Laboratory, officials there shut down two of the world's fastest supercomputers, according to reports.

A lab spokeswoman said the facility performed an orderly shutdown of IBM's Roadrunner, the 10th most powerful supercomputer in the world, and Cielo, a Cray system ranked No. 6 on on the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest high-performance systems, Computerworld reported.

Shutting down the supercomputers was considered precautionary, as firefighters continue to control the blaze — at least in part by starting fires of their own around Los Alamos.

Crews set part of the perimeter on fire in hopes that it would create a blackened ring around the lab that would prevent the wildfire from advancing to the lab, ABC News reported.

In addition to the supercomputers, Los Alamos — where the first nuclear bomb was created — also contains radioactive material, though officials have expressed confidence that any nuclear material there is secure.

As a precaution, officials are using a plane equipped with radiation monitors to keep an eye out for emissions, the Associated Press reported

In shutting down its supercomputers, Los Alamos also shut down the research and experiments they were performing. Roadrunner and Cielo are used by the National Nuclear Security Administration for simulating how nuclear materials age, as well as for other uses.

By late morning June 30, the fire had burned nearly 145 square miles, or 92,735 acres, AP reported. That puts it in range of the 2003 Dry Lakes fire in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, which burned more that 94,000 acres.


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