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'Flying lab' to monitor smoke near NM nuclear lab

Federal environment officials have dispatched a special twin-engine plane capable of detecting chemical and radiological materials as a wildfire continues to burn near a government nuclear laboratory in northern New Mexico.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "flying laboratory" is in the Los Alamos area, but an agency spokesman says it has yet to make its initial data-collection flight.

The plane has sensors that collect detailed chemical air samples from a safe distance.

It also was used during a fire that burned through part of Los Alamos and the lab in May 2000.

The nuclear lab and state environment officials are also monitoring the air. They say there have been no releases of toxins.

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico had requested the EPA's help early on in the monitoring effort.

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