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Out-of-control Texas wildfires pause work at nuclear weapons facility

Non-essential staff were evacuated from the power plant on Tuesday, but Wednesday the facility said it is "open for normal operations."

Published: February 28, 2024 7:48am

Out-of-control wildfires are raging across the Texas Panhandle on Wednesday, forcing evacuations, power shut offs for thousands and causing a nuclear weapons facility to temporarily shut down.

Non-essential staff were evacuated Tuesday evening out of an "abundance of caution" from the National Nuclear Security Administration's Pantex plant, located northeast of Amarillo, spokesperson Laef Pendergraft said, according to The Associated Press.

The plant bills itself as "the nation’s primary assembly, disassembly, retrofit, and life-extension center for nuclear weapons," with the last new nuclear weapon being completed in 1991.

Since that time, the plant, which has about 650 buildings across an 18,000-acre site, has dismantled thousands of retired weapons and placed the plutonium waste known as "pits," in interim storage. 

Pantex said on X, formerly Twitter, early Wednesday that the facility is "open for normal day shift operations" and all scheduled personnel are required to report for duty.

Additionally, nearly 5,000 customers are out of power Wednesday in Texas, with most of them located in Hemphill County, according to PowerOutage.us.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued a disaster relief declaration to assist in wildfire efforts across 60 counties.

"Hot and dry conditions caused by high temperatures and windy conditions are expected to continue in the region in the coming days. These conditions could increase the potential for these wildfires to grow larger and more dangerous," Abbott said. "Texans are urged to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe."

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